In lawn chairs, on foot or at parties, spectators enjoy watching classic cars go by during the cruise.

In lawn chairs, on foot or at parties, spectators enjoy watching classic cars go by during the cruise.

File photo by Sarah Purlee


Giving back at the heart of the Harper Cruise ​​​​​​​

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published August 20, 2018

 From left, Dennis Joseph, of Chesterfield Township; and his son, Matt Joseph, of Sterling Heights; along with 3-year-old James and 2-year-old Sam, attend the 2017 event.

From left, Dennis Joseph, of Chesterfield Township; and his son, Matt Joseph, of Sterling Heights; along with 3-year-old James and 2-year-old Sam, attend the 2017 event.

File photo by Sarah Purlee

ST. CLAIR SHORES — With “charity” right in the name of the cruise, the Shorewood Kiwanis Harper Charity Cruise raises money for projects to benefit children hosted by Shorewood Kiwanis, as well as for five other charity partners that help raise money at the event.

Whether through direct donations, sponsorships or T-shirt sales, the cruise raises money for Shorewood Kiwanis’ many outreach projects throughout the year, including back-to-school shopping for children in need in St. Clair Shores, scholarships for graduating local high school seniors and the dictionaries that are distributed to every third-grader in the city each year.

“We just bought $100 worth of school clothes (each) at Meijer for 38 kids. That’s where all the money Shorewood Kiwanis raises goes, why we’re out there hustling (on) cruise day,” said club President Dr. Carl Papa. “Some of these kids, they don’t even have shoes that fit. They don’t have school clothes.

“In the fall, we kick off our dictionary project to third-graders. Since our inception, we’ve given out over 12,000 dictionaries. The teachers love it, too. ... They use it to teach all year. That’s what the money goes for, stuff like that, which I want everybody to know that.”

Papa said that over the years, Shorewood Kiwanis has helped other local children, like a special-needs boy who was in need of a specialized bike that cost $3,000. Papa said that three years after the group donated the bike, he saw the boy’s father again, who expressed his gratitude and the fact that his son still loves the bike.

“It’s cool to know we gave this kid money three years ago and he’s still using the bike. To me, that’s a great use of money,” Papa said. “If you can’t buy a T-shirt, give us a donation. No one gets money out of the club. It’s all charity; nobody makes money.”

Five charity partners provide volunteers to help sell T-shirts and collect donations along the cruise route. This year’s partners are CARE of Southeastern Michigan, the Macomb Chamber Music Society, the St. Clair Shores Cultural Committee, Maggie’s Wigs 4 Kids of Michigan and the Lakeshore Family YMCA.

Maggie Varney, president and CEO of Maggie’s Wigs 4 Kids of Michigan, said that her group has been working with Shorewood Kiwanis for at least six years. She said that the group was one of the first to help her organization when it was getting off the ground.

“When we started and we were a new, grassroots organization, nobody even knew about us and they (Shorewood Kiwanis) sponsored some of our kids. They would give us a check,” Varney said. “They were one that supported us from the very beginning.

“I was so grateful for that, so when they came to me and (asked the organization to be a charity partner) ... I thought it’s, one, a great way to give back to the people that supported us and, two, it shows that we’re in the community and it’s not just about what we can get, but what we can give.”

Returning as a charity partner gets easier every year, she said, because cruisers come to know where each charity is selling T-shirts and come to support individual charities. 

“They come to get the shirts from you because they want to support that charity,” Varney said. 

The family-oriented event is a great way to give the children who benefit from Wigs 4 Kids and their families an outlet to help, as well. 

“It’s a labor of love,” Varney said. “We send our kids out in the wagons with their parents, and they (donors) see what we actually do.”

Cindy Gardner, chair of the St. Clair Shores Cultural Committee, said that some people assume that since the committee is a city group, it is allocated money in the budget. That is not true, she said.

“This is our one and only fundraiser for the Cultural Committee,” she said. “It’s fun. We bring food and turn it into a little social get-together, and it raises money for us and the Kiwanis, and it’s a good thing to be a part of. Everybody’s out there having a fun time.”

The Cultural Committee supports chamber music in Wahby Park as well as a speaker program at the library, which is what donations to that group help pay for. 

“They support us in amazing ways, (so) anything we can do to support them, we would do it gratefully,” Gardner said of Shorewood Kiwanis.