SARASOTA – The Grand Prix makes waves on the Suncoast year round, raising thousands of dollars for Suncoast Charities for Children. For 34 years the races pump money into local agencies that help children and adults with special needs.
“I have had parents come up to me and say are you the girl from Thunder by the Bay, or Grand Prix, we want to say thank you, our son or our daughter attends name the agency, and they receive services thanks to the fundraising,” Festival Director, Lucy Nicandri, said. “To hear that and to see that, can’t ask for anything better.”
Beth Russell’s son, Charley, is enrolled in two agencies benefiting from the Grand Prix, The Haven and Special Olympics of Sarasota County.
“This is all new to me, and it’s amazing to me how much goes on to support all of these great programs for our kids like Charley,” Russell said.
Haven President and CEO, Brad Jones, says the Grand Prix profit, assists with capital projects.
“We have so many people on our waiting list, we don’t have openings unless we build new buildings, they help us tremendously, new residential homes, other buildings that have just been completed,” Jones said.
Charley’s off that waiting list, now he’s working for The Haven.
“I clean the bathrooms, take out the garbage,” Charley said.
And when he’s not working, he’s continuing his well–decorated career with the Special Olympics.
“I’m doing bowling in August.”
Children First, The Loveland Center, and The Florida Center, are other agencies benefiting from the races.
One of the founders, Cal Erb, said he says parents lean on the support of these centers, to enrich their child’s life.
“They can teach them, take them out on picnics, they just ,know how to treat them,” Erb added.
“I got so many new friends,” Charley said with a smile.