The St. Jude Corvette Drive was a long discussed idea for an exciting fundraising event that went beyond just the Mid-Illinois Corvette Club. The event was modeled after the very successful St. Jude Ride, which for nine years has traveled from Peoria, IL to Memphis, TN and raised $3.7 million. The Corvette Drive started with MICC member Sandy Arnold and her committee from the club. They worked with Mike McCoy who is a Peoria County Sheriff and member of the St. Jude Research Children's Hospital Board of Directors and Angie Wiebler, a St. Jude fundraising manager. After a lot of preparation the Corvette drive was set to ride for the first time in 2012.
With the intent to raise money for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, TN the guidelines were set. Participants in the drive would raise at least $1500 and drive their Corvette with a partner or solo drivers would raise $1000. The first year of the drive saw 37 Corvettes raising a phenomenal $50,000. The drive left Uftring Chevy in Washington, IL on the morning of May 3rd, 2012 for a seven hour trip to Memphis. Among the 37 Corvettes were members of the Mid-Illinois Corvette Club, Mid-West Corvette Club from Milan, IL, and several other Corvette enthusiasts without a club affiliation.
The trip provided gas stops, comfort breaks, and a group lunch along the way. The Corvette caravan had a police escort for the entire journey. Once outside Memphis the group was met by the Shelby County Police Department where their motorcycle patrol escorted them the final stretch to the hotel. They stopped traffic at all intersections for a 50 mile stretch so the Corvettes were not separated and all arrived together at the hotel. The officers did a tremendous job and provided an awesome experience for the drivers.
After settling in at the hotel the group experienced some of the local sites such as Beale Street, Graceland, the trolley system, and finally enjoyed southern food from the Blues City Café and other local restaurants. The next day saw the group driving to the St. Jude Children's Hospital where they attended a presentation by the hospital. Sheriff McCoy introduced Dr. Elizabeth Steward, a research doctor at the hospital and formerly of Dunlap, IL. She spoke to the group about her work in oncology. Then Dr. Richard Gilbertson, the director of their Comprehensive Cancer Center, spoke about the latest research and technology that is being used to treat childhood cancers. He paralleled diagnosing and fixing Corvettes with their work at the center. After the presentation the group took guided tours of the hospital and its facilities.
Later in the day, some of the not so critically ill children were able to come outside and see the Corvettes. They viewed the Corvettes, sat in them, honked horns, and pretended to drive. One girl said when she got better and grew up, she wanted to work at the hospital and buy a Corvette to bring to show the kids. The entire experience was very humbling. Seeing that the money raised for the hospital was not only helping sick kids but creating cures for cancer in children was incredible.
The St. Jude Corvette Drive continues to grow with a new drive every year. The 2015 drive saw participants raising $110,000 which brought the four year total to $300,000. Visit the St. Jude Drives website for more info.