“How can we pay tribute to Dan Wheldon, an amazing race car driver with a huge space in his heart for kids, who tragically lost his life in October 2011 in a racing accident?”
This is the question posed over coffee by a couple of PCA members in early 2012. The answer we arrived at was to raise money in his name for a cause in which he believed – All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. But how to do that?
Well, if golf junkies will pay money to play with their professional heroes, why wouldn’t car junkies pay to play with their professional auto racing heroes?
And we were off, turning the seed of a thought into “The First Annual Pro-Am Kart Race in memory of Dan Wheldon to Benefit All Children’s Hospital” in 6 scant weeks. Held at Andersen Race Park, just north of Palmetto, Florida, we only had one Pro, our own Patrick Long, but the 40 amateurs who raced that day had a ball as he raced with all of us, in the process raising about $6700 for All Children’s Hospital.
The second year, our event grew a good deal. In attendance were 10 pros, 40 amateurs, and a core group of dedicated sponsors, led by Alegra Motorsports, Bert Smith Porsche, and Reeves Import Motorcars. Once again, everyone had a fun filled day while raising about $13,400 for All Children’s. We were thrilled!
In 2014, Patrick Long graciously lent his name to the event and thus was created the Patrick Long Pro-Am Kart Race. He also dramatically stepped up his involvement and became an integral part of not only the race itself, but all of the planning and work that went into its success, and it showed. The 14 Pros who participated included 12 drivers who had just driven the 12 Hours of Sebring, a legend of the sport, a top motorsport TV personality and the eventual 2014 Continental Tire series champion. As well as Patrick Long, they were Sebastian Bourdais, Colin Braun, Jan Heylen Katherine Legge,Tommy Kendall Bryan Sellers, Tristian Vautier, Jim Norman, Trent Hindman, Norbert Seidler, Jon Bennett, Martn Plowman, and Patrick Lindsey. With their involvement and the fantastic support of the local PCA community, we dramatically grew the event. Patron Spirits, Dale Pelfrey Racing and Rally Gas Stations joined Alegra, Bert Smith, and Reeves to help net $50,000 and become the largest third party fund-raiser for All Children’s Hospital.
2015 brought increased sponsorships by Patron and Rally, as well as new sponsors Cardio Access, and Porsche North America. Very Importantly, Andersen RacePark became a major sponsor, instead of just the location of the race. Pro drivers Andy Lally, Spencer Pumpelly, Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor, Shane Lewis, and Elliot Skeer joined the returning pro’s . When the dust settled at the end of the day, $65,000 was raised for Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital
In 2016, Beall’s Department Stores and Tervis Tumblers provided some fabulous gifts for Pro’s and participants, while CSI Construction Services and Parathyroid joined as Sponsors. Pro’s Mark Wilkins and Ethan Low joined us as the new conflict with the IMSA Breakfast with the Champions prevented some of our loyal Pro’s, who were Sebring winners, from participating. Despite the mad scramble to balance 14 teams with pro’s, we had another successful event. We raise over $65,300, putting our 5 year total over the $200,000 mark, with over $180,000 in just the last 3 years.
2017 bring big changes, as we move to become part of the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg week rather than the day after the 12 Hours of Sebring. We could not overcome the conflict with the IMSA breakfast event, so we chose to tie to IndyCar and The Road to Indy as well as the Pirelli World Challenge Series. Andersen RacePark has stepped up in a big way, partnering with Kart 4 Kids, Inc. as event organizers. Sebastian Bourdais is joining Patrick Long as co-featured Pro’s. So join us Wednesday evening March 8 for the Kart 4 Kids Pro-Am Kart Race Hosted by Andersen RacePark for the Benefit Of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Featureing Sebastian Bourdais and Patrick Long, as we raise money to help All Children’s save kid’s lives.