Good Cause: Karting event races to end homelessness
By Michelle Linn-Gust For The Sun February 18, 2013 12:50PM
A DuPage PADS board member takes her turn in the 2012 Drive for 55 fundraiser, which raised more than $90,000 last year. | Courtesy of Robyn Sheldon
AT A GLANCE
What: Drive for 75: The Race to End Homelessness
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24
Where: Chicago Indoor Racing, Addison
Updated: March 21, 2013 6:16AM
At a DuPage PADS board meeting, executive director Carol Simler wasn’t sure she heard board member Joel Weinberg correctly.
“What about go karting?” he asked humbly. The board was discussing ways to heighten awareness for the organization’s 25th anniversary.
“Joel, go karting?” Simler asked, not sure she heard him right.
Most people might suggest a walk or a run, but karting is Weinberger’s winter passion when he and other car racing enthusiasts have to go inside.
“It’s another form of racing,” Weinberger said of karting.
“From there, it took on a life of its own,” Simler said of the event called Drive for 25 that raised $55,000 that year and has grown substantially since then. For the 2012 event, they named it the Drive for 55 and raised more than $90,000. This year it’s the Drive for 75: The Race to End Homelessness, and the goal is to surpass $75,000.
Eighteen teams will compete for more than six hours. Each team is responsible for raising at least $2,500 to enter the event. Some teams have six members, others double that. While everyone is there to raise money for PADS, some teams will use it is an opportunity to hone their skills, and for others it will be about the camaraderie with their teammates.
Weinberger owns Continental Motors in Naperville, and he and Shawn Young, director of external marketing and events at Continental, like to race cars. The two spend as much time as they can racing cars on road courses in the summer and karting in the winter. Karting helps them keep their skills up when it’s too cold outside. Young’s wife and daughter also kart. His daughter Isabella, 12, will be on their team at this year’s event.
Simler learned a lot from Weinberger about a hobby that she didn’t know had so many adult enthusiasts.
“The perception is that karting is just for kids,” she said.
The event is the longest at Chicago Indoor Racing, providing adults with ample time on the track they wouldn’t get otherwise. Weinberger learned of the facility when his children took up karting.
Weinberger landed on the board of the organization, which aims to end homelessness, when he knew he wanted to find a way to give back but wasn’t sure how. After attending one of the organization’s fundraisers, he liked what he saw, and Simler was happy to welcome him. No one dreamed that karting would raise this much money and continue to surpass the goal each year.
“It’s a fundraiser first and a race second,” Young said.
“This is something to behold,” Simler said. “It’s very physically challenging. It’s not just going around the track. And they have no power steering.”
As they continue to expand their reach, Weinberger and Young know the most challenging part for them is that they can’t have more than 18 teams on the track.
This isn’t like a run where you can have 500 people,” Weinberger said. “We can only put 18 cars on the track to keep it safe.”
Instead, they are focused on bringing more corporate sponsors. They also have thought about format expansions, which include making it a 24-hour race or a relay where one teams hands off to another.
“I can’t say enough about Joel’s creativity in providing this opportunity,” Simler said.
DuPage PADS is the largest provider of interim housing and the largest provider of permanent supportive housing in DuPage County.
“The best things for me are that I’m doing something that helps others; I get to spend time with my friends and family; and I teach my children how to give back,” Young said of the event, happy that he and Weinberger have been able to mold their passions for racing and helping others into one day.