Keeping A Pledge And Looking For More
Team Seattle Does It For The Children
© Andrew S. Hartwell
The Rolex 24 hours at Daytona is a very special race.
While it is special because this classic American
endurance contest has been sanctioned by four
different sanctioning bodies in the last several years
(IMSA / Pro Sports Car / USRRC / Grand Am), that
isn't what I am referring to. And I don't mean because
the cars come in such a variety of styles, shapes and
colors. And I'm not referring to the grueling contest
that demands drivers keep a car moving very quickly
all day and all night. And it isn't because Paul
Newman is back, at 70+ years of age, to try again.
No. While those are all valid reasons why this is a
very special race, they are not the one reason you
have read this far to learn about.
The Rolex 24 hours at Daytona is special because people with big hearts will be there. And they could use a few friends to help them out. If your heart is in working order, and your wallet isn't sealed shut, you are invited to become their friend too.
Once again in 2001, Don and Donna Kitch, and the Team Seattle Porsche group, will be running competitive laps at the Rolex on behalf of children. The "Team Seattle for Children at the Daytona 24 Endowment", will be the recipient of all the pledge-per-lap money Don and his 'kid squad' can collect. The money is invested and the income it generates is, as noted on the Team Seattle website (http://www.teamseattle.com/home99.htm): "used to provide support for cardiac research, education, and training at Children's Hospital. The hospital "provides care for children with complex medical needs."
I had the pleasure of meeting Don at last years Rolex and he told me about the fund raising effort. I contacted his office for an update recently and his wife, and fellow fundraiser, Donna Porada-Kitch brought me up to speed. I asked several questions and she supplied the answers.
I wondered how many racing laps the Team Seattle cars have run since the fund raising effort started. The team seeks per-lap pledges so the more time they can spend on the track, the more money they raise. That is one more reason the Rolex 24 hours is special - you can get in lots of laps.
"In our first year, 1997, we ran 400 laps. In '98, we increased that to 540 laps. In '99, that number went up again to 603, and we finished in 1st place! Last year, we almost duplicated the feat but, while we were just 6 laps away from a podium finish, we did manage to increase our lap count to 617!
"2001 will be our 5th year representing the city of Seattle, and Children's Hospital, and Regional Medical Care Center. Our goal is to log at least another 600 laps and collect pledges that total $500.00 per lap. We are currently set for $300.00 per lap.
Working to collect even the smallest donation has been a challenging enterprise. The rewards have been provided via the positive impact this money has had on children's lives. Donna explains: "As a fully endowed guild of the hospital, we have donated $554,000.00 to uncompensated care in our first three years. Last year we donated $226,000.00 to a grant for Pediatric Heart Research and we plan to do so again this year. Our 2001 goal for the Rolex is $300,000.00.
Besides all the good hearts that make pledges, an effort like this requires good hands too. I asked Donna how many people participate in the effort as 'worker bees' tied to the team and/or the administrative areas of fund raising?
"To answer your question directly, we have about 10 key people help us organize the event. We have a full time hospital employee who is the guild coordinator for this project. Her name is Barbara Koler. She is responsible for all pledges, collections and so on, of the fundraiser monies.
"Don and I handle all the teams logistics scheduling, ordering clothes, etc. It is a HUGE time commitment but each year we are getting more proficient at it and we really do enjoy doing it together.
"We will have two hospital representatives down with us, so if someone wants to pledge they can see Elna or Nancy. These two also take care of our 70 guests.
That is some crowd! Why have so many people on hand?
"The cars are funded privately by these people so we want to take good care of our sponsors! This is the first year we have corporate sponsorship from both CarPoint and Darigold. Appropriate huh? Microsoft CarPoint is the web site that "is committed to helping consumers find the car they want at a competitive price", while Darigold produces a variety of dairy and milk products.
"We also arrange all their travel needs. It's a huge group to move around with 17 rental cars this year, 40 hotel rooms, golf carts, motorhomes, race tickets, dinners at the track, catering during the race, radios, scanners, fire suits, 5 pieces of clothing with logos per person, air tickets, etc., etc., etc.
"We also have 2 team managers, Doc and Gloria Doolittle. This is their second year with us and they are responsible for all the guest logistics, the food etc. They are a huge help!
"Once the race starts my primary focus is of course my husband, and I like to do timing and scoring so I can know exactly what's going on at all times.
It's been said that no one can do everything but everyone can do something. How can everyone do something to help you reach your goal of $500 per lap?
"We have about 400 people who have already made pledges and we welcome everyone to help us grow that number. It doesn't have to be a few people giving a lot. We love it when many people give a little! We have had pledges as low as 5 cents a lap to as high as $15.00 a lap in the past. All amounts are welcome and they all go to the children!
Do the children ever get to see the faces of the Team Seattle members?
"Oh yes. I can tell you our team does patient visits and we pass out team Seattle yo-yos, and beanie baby stuffed animals. Those same beanie babies will also ride in both team cars during the race so - in a sense - the kids will be there in the cars with us too! In fact, we will be at the hospital again this Friday. Our sponsor, Darigold, will be providing milk and cookies. If you visit our web site, I will have photos from this visit posted next week.
In a recent press release supplied by Grand Am media coordinator, Christie Hyde, Don Kitch made the following comments: "When my wife and I started this, we never dreamed it could grow this much. I have always linked a charitable organization to my racing, but the success of this program is unbelievable. It's contagious. Doing this has become a passion driven by the kids for everyone on the team."
Yes, the Rolex 24 hours at Daytona is a special race. And the good worker bees and sponsors of Team Seattle are one very big-hearted reason why.