Local agencies benefit year round from Grand Prix

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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.

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Lynden Blake
Lynden Blake is an Auburn University graduate with a degree in journalism. As an aspiring sportscaster she has worked in many media outlets. She’s currently a news and sports reporter for Suncoast News Network in Sarasota, Florida. Previously she interned for Fox Sports Florida where she worked with the production team during Tampa Bay Rays games and freelanced for www.foxsports.com covering the Miami Heat during the 2015 NBA Summer League. She shadowed at WRBL News 3 in Columbus, Ga. her last semester in Auburn. Previously, she was a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc. and did many television and radio gigs for Sportz Blitz and AHSAA Radio Network. As a Tigerette at Auburn she hosted the nation’s top football prospects on game-day visits and official visits during the off season. She has always had passion for sports as she was a three-sport athlete in high school playing softball and basketball and cheering for Benjamin Russell High School.