If the folks who put on the Cruisin' for a Wish Car Show were big on measuring time, Saturday's 10th anniversary event would certainly count as a milestone. But it's another number -- 51 -- that matters most to the Stockdale Moose Lodge. That's how many Kern County kids with life-threatening illnesses have seen their dreams come true thanks to the fundraiser.
"We have sent kids and entire families to Disney World, on Disney cruises," said Don Perry, a member of the lodge who has run the fundraiser since its inception. "We've sent them to Indianapolis to meet (auto racer) Tony Stewart, sent them to New York to see (singer) Chris Brown. We have sent them to Hawaii, we have done room makeovers, shopping for computers and so forth, for the kids."
The lodge works exclusively with Kern County Make a Wish, ensuring that local children are the beneficiaries of the money raised, a grand total of $177,700 over the first nine years of the car show, Perry said. The lodge considers the requests of the children before the event and earmarks money for those wishes, but Perry said the event usually exceeds expectations, making it possible to sponsor more kids. The show raises in the neighborhood of $25,000 and $30,000 each year.
As for the show, Perry was quick to point out, "We don't discriminate against any car." Or motorcycle. Or lawnmower ...?
"Some of the lawnmowers have a V8 Chevrolet motor. They don't mow lawns, I can tell you that."
Though the liability gods have spoiled the possibility of lawnmower rides, the souped-up grass cutters will be on display next to hundreds of other vehicles, including Perry's restored '58 Chevrolet Impala.
"We have classic and custom cars -- everything from Model Ts up through current cars and pickups."
And it's not too late to get your spiffy ride entered. Vehicles will be registered beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday, and the $40 entry fee includes one steak dinner (the meal is $12 for spectators, who get in the show for free).
In addition to the show, there will be several raffles of some pretty impressive donated goods, like televisions and bicycles. Dozens of vendors will be hawking a variety of goods, like purses, caramel corn, jewelry and T-shirts.
Though Perry will continue to support the event, at age 71 he said the strain of organizing the show is getting to be too much, so he's easing out of a leadership role after this year. And though he said the rewards of his advocacy have been great, working with sick children can exact a toll.
"I've got a lot of good memories, but I get really emotional and real attached to it. It really gets to me to talk about it."