Run to Remember
Auto enthusiasts in South Florida pay tribute to those we lost on 9/11
By Steve Turner
Photos courtesy of Steve Gelles/Blow-By Racing
In the wake of the terrorist attacks that wounded our country and took the lives of so many Americans, we all vowed to never forget that dreadful day. If you were old enough to remember, you surely won’t forget where you were and who you were with the moment you learned of those events. It was a moment that made us all take stock of our lives and appreciate how fortunate we were to still be alive and living in the United States.
Moving forward, it’s natural that time might soften the focus on those events. However, for those that truly don’t want to forget, it helps to have an outlet. In fact, in the days following those attacks we were urged to keep living our lives so the terrorists wouldn’t win.
When it comes to car enthusiasts, there is now better way to enjoy your life than gathering with other enthusiasts and appreciating the automotive camaraderie. One group of Ford fans, the folks from Stangs of South Florida organized the Patriot Day Run to keep that memory alive and to raise money for charities supporting first responders.
“It started 11 years ago when a bunch of our club members decided to just do a cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to the Florida Keys. The date we picked just happened to fall on the one-year anniversary of 9/11. SO we decided to make it a ‘tribute run’ and to raise money for the families of the fallen,” Benton Launerts, main man at Stangs of South Florida, said. “Our first year event happened with only 30 days planning and we had 125 Mustangs attend. The destination we chose was Holiday Isle in Islamorada where the event remained eight of the eleven years. The event is primarily run by a committee within Stangs of South Florida, but is also a joint collaboration from Muscle Stangs of Miami who ran the car show portion and who’s members largely support the event.”
This year the PDR staged at the Tropical Park in Miami, Florida. After gathering at 8 a.m., the group of Mustangs and other cars—yes all makes and models are allowed to help a good cause—headed out for traveled to its destination at Robbie’s Marina with an escort of first responders. Despite the spotty weather, over 150 cars made the trip Robbie’s, a great spot in Islamroda. When they arrived there was a car show with awards, and an after party featuring a Pig Roast buffet and $2 beers!
Watch the cars roll out in this video shot from a drone above:
“We chose Robbie’s Restaurant and Marina which is a great venue that gave the option of many things to do for the attendees (shopping village, fishing trips, kayak rentals, tarpon feeding, and a great bay front restaurant). The host hotel we chose was the Chesapeake in Islamorada, which our attendees sold out, and attendees also stayed at several surrounding hotels,” Benton explained. “The response to this years event was fantastic. Steeda volunteered to be our title sponsor, and we also gained sponsorships from Bacardi, Bud Light, and Shock Top beer. We sold out the car show portion with about 120 vehicles and must have had another 30 show vehicles that were left to blend in with public parking. We estimate total attendees at about 300 people.”
So the Patriot Run is definitely a journey that’s all about living your life in a positive way while remembering a tragic event. Of course, the event is more about remembering 9/11 in a positive way and enjoying cars. That stuff is great, but the Stangs of South Florida use the event to help generate money for charities every year. Chosen to benefit from the Patriot Run in 2014 was the Wounded Warriors Project. We give the major kudos to the club for supporting such a worthy cause.
“We raised money for Wounded Warrior Project, which we believe is a highly appropriate charity due to the fact that 9/11 caused us to go into several wars and that it is our responsibility to support our returning heroes. We raised money primarily from the silent auction and raffle items, of which Steeda Autosports donated over $2,000.00 in gift certificates,” Benton added. “We raised over $7,000, which after expenses netted close to $2,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project. We donate 100 percent of the net. The event would have raised more but unfortunately we were fighting bad weather and we ended up having torrential downpours right at the end of the event when we had the auction and the after party which was unfortunate.”
Well, plans for next year’s Patriot Day Run are still in the works, but if you are looking for a good time that supports a good cause, you can keep tabs on the event here. For now, check out our coverage and special thanks to Steve Gelles of Blow-By Racing for the shots.