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Kids win in Racing For Kids

Brother and sister Griffin, 6, and Brynn Collins, 8, reflect the hubcap of a Willys-Overland Jeepster. photo by Brad Lindberg.

September 04, 2014
GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Don't touch don'ttouch dnttch.

Parents issued high-tempo warnings to children getting too close to exotic cars displayed on Kercheval during Racing For Kids to the Hill.

So, when an organizer invited William Crawford, 3, of Grosse Pointe Park, to climb on an Indy race car, he was all in.

"Start your engines," he said from the driver's seat.

Overall attendance was hard to estimate at the eighth annual free street fair Wednesday, Aug. 27, in the Hill district of downtown Grosse Pointe Farms.

As people flowed on and off the Hill from late morning to evening, Public Safety Director Dan Jensen put the figure at about 2,000.

"Easily," he said.

"It gets bigger and better every year," said Tom Buhl, event co-chair from the Farms.

"All the smiling faces," said Farms resident Tony Soave, scanning the crowd while shepherding his daughter, Andrea Provenzano, and four grandchildren: Alexandra, 1; Nicolas, 2; Christopher, 5 and Anthony, 6.

At 7 weeks old, Finn Ezop was likely the youngest present.

His mother, Nora Ezop, a Farms resident on maternity leave from Grosse Pointe Academy, carried Finn in a pouch, kangaroo style.

"I'm here to check out the cars and enjoy the beautiful day," she said.

A candyapple red 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 fastback with a 428-4V CJ ram air engine lured her attention.

"I love any vintage car," Ezop said.

Many people gathered around a silver Morgan 3 Wheeler owned by Ken Fruehauf of the Farms.

"It came from England just over a year ago," Fruehauf said.

The open-cockpit car lacks doors.

Instead of four wheels, it has three, the third being at rear center. The configuration makes it hard to straddle potholes.

"You think you've avoided the pothole because you're used to going over the center of it, and that rear tire comes up and pounds you in the back," Fruehauf said.

Racing For Kids is a charity based on the Hill that uses the popularity of motorsports to raise money for children's healthcare.

"We were founded 25 years ago at Children's Hospital of Michigan," said Patrick Wright, the charity's executive director.

"Shortly after that, we became our own 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation."

The group has raised nearly $6 million and recruited race car drivers to make about 550 visits to more than 28,000 hospitalized youth in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Japan and Brazil.

Among participating active and former drivers are Farms native and Racing For Kids national spokesman Robbie Buhl, Michael and Marco Andretti, 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Ray, NASCAR's Danica Patrick and three time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves.

"Danica Patrick got a boy to eat who hadn't eaten in two weeks," Wright said.

It happened at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

"She walked into a room at 10 a.m. and saw a little boy who hadn't eaten his breakfast," Wright said. "She said, 'Pancakes, that's my favorite breakfast. I can't believe you're not eating them.' She went to the next room. His mother ran out and said, 'She got him to eat. He hasn't eaten in days.'"

"Racing For Kids has been an important part of Indy Car racing since (the charity) started in 1989," said Larry Henry, former WWJ radio sports anchor and Indianapolis 500 broadcaster now living in Madison, Ind. "The drivers love it. They do good work and it helps kids."

Christian Hammond, 10, of Howell, attended the fair with his mother Jennifer Hammond, one of many volunteers from AutoTrader.com.

"I volunteered because it was for my mom's work and for charity," said Christian Hammond. "I wanted to help kids that were sick."

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