Racing for the Kids

Where Indy Meets its Match

One block of Kercheval Avenue in Grosse Pointe Farms will be blocked off on August 30, but it’s for a great cause -- the 17th annual Racing for Kids event.

Taking place on The Hill, between Muir and McMillan roads, the all-day family event raises funds for projects benefiting sick children in our area.

Besides the exotic, vintage, and racing cars lining the street under the checkered flags, there will be live music, face-painting, and a children’s art tent sponsored by the College for Creative Studies in Detroit and treats from National Coney Island.

Participating businesses are also holding a scavenger hunt for kids, sponsored by The Hill Association and the Grosse Pointe News.

There’s also something new to awe eventgoers this year, said Ed Russell, one of the Racing for the Kids coordinators: Two motorcyclists will race each other -- inside a giant steel mesh ball.

“That is really something to see,” he said.

Drawing upwards of 2,000 visitors, the daytime street fair will run from 11:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.

An evening VIP reception from 6-9 p.m. will host about 500 people. It will feature live music, specialty cocktails, exclusive live and silent auction items, plus food from the Bronze Door, the Dirty Dog, Fresh Farms, Jumps, Luxe, and Café Nini.

After the reception, the Hill restaurants often get extra customers as visitors wind down from the event, said co-organizer Tom Buhl.

Last year’s Racing for Kids in Grosse Pointe raised $250,000. In the previous 16 years, this local event has raised over $1.9 million, underwriting projects benefiting chronically ill kids at Ascension St. John Hospital, Beaumont Hospital Grosse Pointe, the Children’s Foundation for Children’s Hospital, and the Henry Ford Health System.

“It’s a great partnership that impacts so many children in our communities,” noted Children’s Foundation president and CEO Larry Burns.

Donations from Racing for Kids have purchased everything from pediatric rehabilitation equipment and pediatric heart monitors for home use to specially equipped Radio Flyer red wagons adapted for IV poles for kids’ travel in the hospital.

Proceeds will also benefit Teen Street Skills and its local program to create better and safer young drivers by teaching awareness behind the wheel.

“The neat thing is the money is going to all these good institutions around town and making a difference for children,” said Buhl.

During the event, 30 exotic and vintage cars will be parked along Kercheval, along with a couple of Indy 500 vehicles that kids can climb into and have their pictures taken.

That’s a special nod to another Racing for Kids organizer, Grosse Pointe Farms resident Robbie Buhl, who raced in the Indy Racing League.

Buhl won the 1992 Indy Lights championship and later was picked to be a teammate to Tony Stewart for two seasons in the Indy Car Series, scoring the closest finish in series history when he nosed out Lola F1 driver Vincenzo Sospiri by 0.064 seconds at the New Hampshire International Speedway in August 1997.

Since then, he’s also been a part of the broadcasting team, covering the Indy Lights Series races. And he’s been a spokesman for the organization since it was founded.

The Grosse Pointe event is a part of the National Racing for Kids charity that uses the popularity of motorsports to bring attention and funding to the healthcare needs of children. In so doing, it’s raised $7.5 million in the national effort.

A big part of the program is bringing race car drivers into local children’s hospitals to visit sick kids, share racing stories, and sign autographs.

The visits are a bright spot for many hospitalized children during their treatment.

Physicians report that these visits can play an important part in the children’s recovery therapy.

Racing for Kids drivers and representatives have made more than 575 hospital visits in countries where they compete, meeting 30,000 sick children in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, and Australia.

Russell said Racing for Kids began in Detroit in 1989 when he and Tom Buhl took some friends down to the Indianapolis 500 and the first Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle.

“We thought wouldn’t it be fun to do something to help our local communities and local hospitals? Since then, it’s become a phenomenal community effort,” he said.

Both Buhl and Russell lauded Grosse Pointe Farms officials for their help in staging the event.

“The city leaders have been great, working with us and redirecting traffic, including buses and even ambulances” for that day, Buhl said.

“It started as we were thinking of an event for charity and goodwill, with the proceeds going to the community, something for people to come out and have fun and raise a little money for the kids,” he said.

“The goal is to make a difference in our community,” said Buhl. “And it’s such a fun community event.”

“It’s a great partnership that impacts so many children in our communities,” noted Children’s Foundation president and CEO Larry Burns.

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