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August 20, 2013

Community gets revved up for annual Racing for Kids to the Hill events

By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer

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Community gets revved up for annual Racing for Kids to the Hill events
During last year’s Racing for Kids to the Hill, Ian, 8, and Elizabeth Ballinger, 10, from Grosse Pointe Woods, got behind the wheel of an IndyCar once driven by Mario Andretti. This year’s event is Aug. 28 along Kercheval in Grosse Pointe Farms.

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — From the Woodward Dream Cruise to the return of the Grand Prix races in Detroit, there’s something about cars that captures the hearts and imaginations of all ages of metro Detroiters.

That allure helps explain the popularity of Racing for Kids to the Hill, an annual free festival from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 28 in the Farms business district that brings spectacular vehicles, family-friendly activities and much more to the Hill along Kercheval. The businesses will host a scavenger hunt and sidewalk sale, Whack the Mole will again perform classic rock and pop tunes, there will be bounce toys for the kids, and there will be refreshments for everyone. And cars lovers can get a close look at the more than 30 vehicles expected to be on display, including racecars, concept cars, classic vehicles and exotic sports cars, some of which are loaned for the day by their proud local owners.

The day of fun is followed by an important fundraiser: a cocktail reception and live luxury auction from 6-9 p.m. Aug. 28 at Northern Trust on the Hill. Money generated by the party benefits the Hill-based nonprofit Racing for Kids, which sends professional racecar drivers and their vehicles to spread cheer among hospitalized children all over the world. It was founded in Detroit in 1989, has raised millions for children’s hospitals and child healthcare institutions, and has organized visits to more than 22,000 young patients in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia and Japan.

Tom Buhl and Hill developer Edward Russell are co-chairs of Racing for Kids to the Hill this year. Buhl has a particularly close connection to this event: His brother, Robbie Buhl, is a former racecar driver and the national spokesperson for Racing for Kids, and he’s one of the celebrities expected to attend this year. Organizers also hope to again have an IZOD IndyCar driver on hand, possibly Oriol Servia, Racing for Kids Public Relations Manager Kathleen Conway said by email.

“Racing for Kids has always been very near and dear to my heart,” Tom Buhl said. “They do great things for children’s hospitals around the world.”

He said Ford Racing — which has been involved since the beginning — will have more than 10 racing vehicles, and General Motors was slated, at press time, to possibly be bringing vehicles, as well, he said.

In addition, Buhl said College for Creative Studies students would be out during the festival doing live artwork, from caricatures to paintings, some of which will be auctioned at the evening fundraiser. There will be opportunities for young visitors to get creative, as well, he said.

“We started it last year, and we’re really going to enhance it this year,” Buhl said of the collaboration with CCS.

The cocktail party alone attracts more than 300 patrons, and while exact numbers aren’t known for the street festival, organizers say attendance during the day is well in excess of that.

“It’s probably our signature (annual) event for the Hill Association,” said Hill Association President Dan LaLonde, who’s also on the Racing for Kids to the Hill steering committee. “This is the biggest event we have. … It brings in a lot of people. Everybody gets involved. It’s for a very good cause … and it’s a lot of fun.”

Buhl expressed a similar sentiment.

“It’s really turned into a great family event, along with a great fundraiser for some of our local hospitals,” Buhl said.

Since the event’s inception seven years ago, the evening cocktail parties and auctions have raised roughly $450,000, Conway said. And the benefits can be seen and felt locally.

“Most of the funds raised have been returned to the community through pediatric programs at Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation, Henry Ford Health System and Beaumont Hospital, Grosse Pointe, where we are currently underwriting the Racing For Kids Lactation Room in the Cotton Family Birthing Center,” Conway said in an email. “Some of the funds are also used to help with the expenses of our season-long program of bringing IndyCar racers to visit hospitalized children across the country.”

Party attendees can bid on auction items like a 2014 Indy 500 package and dinner for 12 at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café on the Hill, she said. And Buhl said this year, they’re auctioning off a two-year lease on a 2014 Ford Escape from Crest Motors — something that not only party attendees can vie for, but also non-attendees can bid on remotely.

“We want people to be excited about the auction and feel like they can (participate) even if they can’t be there,” Buhl said.

LaLonde said both events bring a lot of visitors to the Hill, and the cocktail party is “a real gala affair.”

“The community gets behind it 100 percent,” Buhl said. “It’s great for everyone. … It’s a perfect way to end the summer.”

Kercheval will be closed between McMillan and Hall Place Aug. 28 for the events, but the municipal parking lot behind Rite Aid remains open, and parking is free that day, Conway said.

Tickets to the evening fundraiser were still available at press time. They’re $75 when purchased by Aug. 23, or $90 after Aug. 23 or at the door.

For information about the street fair, visit www.racingforkids.org. For reception tickets, call (313) 882-3403.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer K. Michelle Moran at kmoran@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1047.