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Oct 18, 2011
Lakeland, FL

Hero Cars
More than 125 Mustangs participated in the 13th annual charity cruise
By Steve Turner

In the wake of the tragic terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, the nation came together as one in support of those lost and the first responders that saved as many people as they could. At the time the nation vowed to never forget and at the same time we were encouraged to go on with our lives so the terrorists wouldn’t win. Life has definitely moved on, but Americans have not forgotten.

That is especially true of Benton Launerts and the members of the Stangs of South Florida. Thirteen years ago he started an event to not only remember those we lost, but to support those that went to war against terror after the attack. This event definitely does that, but because the 9/11 Patriot Run is a cruise-in and car show, it is also a way of going on with life and appreciating what our great nation has to offer.

This promo video will definitely give you a feel for the spirit of this event...


Part of what we have to be thankful for is the availability of some amazing performance cars and the freedom to modify them to our liking. This year’s 13th annual edition of the event drew hundreds of vehicles of varying makes and models, but the Fords and, in particular, Mustangs were definitely the largest group of participants as the event receives strong support from Benton’s club and the Muscle ’Stangs of Miami club, which organizes and judges the car show.

Over 250 people attended the event and for Ford fans there were so many great cars to check out from Foxes all the way up to the latest S550s. In all there were over 125 Mustangs that participated. Among theme were plenty of SVT and Ford Performance vehicles on hand as well, including several GT350s, GT500s, Terminators and even a Raptor and a Lightning.

All the cars cruised together for two hours from Tropical Park in Miami, Florida, to the Chesapeake Beach Resort in Islamorada, Florida. There they parked around the beach-side resort for car show judging and spectator enjoyment, but the reason they came together was to remember the fellow Americans we lost on 9/11 and the veterans affected since then.

“The Miami-Dade Fire Department hung a humungous American Flag from a giant ladder truck which the cars drove under as they exited Tropical Park. Then the cruise was escorted by the Miami-Dade Police Department, including a ‘lights and sirens’ equipped 2012 Shelby GT500 driven by MDPD Police Officer Hector Valls, who had coordinated the entire Police detail,” Benton explained. “MDPD blocked entrances and major highways for the cruise as they made their way to the Florida Keys, with American Flags blazing from their antennas. Once in the Keys, Monroe County PD escorted the procession all the way into the Chesapeake Resort.

This year the organizers chose the Lance Corporal Janos V. Lutz Live to Tell Foundation as the charity of choice for the 9/11 Patriot Run’s proceeds. This charity is setup to support veterans affected by Post Traumtic Stress Disorder, which has an alarming tendencies to drive these heroes to suicide without the proper support and assistance. That is just what this charity was designed to help in offering.

“Money is raised for the foundation through a small entry fee, T-shirt sales, raffle ticket sales, a live auction and sponsor donations. Juggernaut Power, a military veteran owned Mustang tuning business, was the title sponsor this year, and donated $2,000 directly to the charity. Steeda Autosports, a sponsor every year since the event started, showed up in force with owner Dario Orlando and a few of their awesome rides. They also donated many hundreds of dollars in gift certificates and also gave a significant check directly to the charity,” Benton said. “Other sponsors and donors included UPR Performance, LMR, CJ Pony Parts, Octane Autosports and Kaplan and Associates Real Estate firm. The Chesapeake Resort also donated many items from local Islamorada vendors and restaurants, including a deep-sea fishing trip.”

In all, it was a great, if bittersweet event. Seeing so many great cars in such a picturesque setting made it easy to be grateful. However, it was alarming to learn just how prevalent PTSD-related suicide is with veterans. Our hats are off to the event organizers and the Live to Tell Foundation for doing such good work.

“The event has supported various charities over the years, all based on how the world has been affected in different ways since the 9/11 tragedy,” Benton said. “The first years benefitted families of victims of the World Trade Center and first responders, and subsequent years have benefitted families of our fallen military heroes in the wars that have since resulted. This year we chose a charity local to South Florida that helps prevent our current epidemic of losing an average of 22 veterans today from the evils of PTSD.”

Here’s a brief video recap of the day’s proceedings...


There will definitely be a 14th annual 9/11 Patriot Run in 2017, so if you are within driving distance of South Florida we can’t recommend it highly enough. Whether you want to participate with your car or just check out all the cars and contribute to the cause, it is a great time for a great cause. Right now the event plans to return to the Chesapeake Beach Resort and the cruise will be held on Saturday September 9, 2017, so mark your calendars.


We arranged to visit Steeda Autosports the day before the Patriot Run to document some new product installations, and the company kindly offered to let us wheel this red S197 to the event. There is nothing like a sharp handling, Vortech-boosted Coyote to remind you how fortunate we are to live in this country.


Benton Launerts (right) has long been the driving force behind the Stangs of South Florida Club and the 9/11 Patriot Run. He and his lady, Jess Tabor, and a supporting crew of many volunteers helped put on a wonderful event that helped mark the 15th anniversary of the tragic attack.


Despite a soggy start to the morning, over one hundred vehicles staged at Tropical Park in Miami, Florida, for the cruise to Islamorada in the Florida Keys. There were first responders on hand, including a 9/11 fire truck and the cruise ran smoothly thanks to a police escort, which helped minimize traffic issues along the route.


The destination for the cruise was also the location for the day’s events, including a car show, charity raffle and special presentation dedicated to veterans and first responders. That location was the Chesapeake Beach Resort, which is right on the water and served as a beautiful backdrop for the Patriot Run event.


This year the proceeds of the 9/11 Patriot Run were earmarked for the Lance Corporal Janos V. Lutz Live to Tell Foundation, which is designed to support veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Soldiers that come back from combat are often ill equipped to handle its horrific echoes. This foundation is designed to help give these soldiers the support they need. This year’s event generate over $6,500 for the charity.


Lawrence Miller’s S550 is decked out in tribute to all four branches of the military, so it was only natural that he participated in the 9/11 Patriot Run.


While Mustangs were definitely the dominant vehicle on the Patriot Run it was great to see this pair of SVT cousins parked together. That’s Mike Pryor’s 2012 SVT Raptor next to Christian Radicy’s 2003 SVT Lightning.


Jason Lopez searched for years to find a pristine Terminator. He finally found one with just 3,000 miles on the clock. He has since put over 6,000 miles of enjoyment on his 2004 Cobra.


This slammed S550 looked stunning perched out on alongside the water rolling on Vossen wheels. Remember when people were complaining about the 2015 Mustang styling? You don’t hear that too often anymore thanks to sleek rides like this.


Besides the charitable mission of the event, what separates the Patriot Run from a traditional car show is the location. We are pretty sure mermaids aren’t real, but where else but the Florida Keys are you going to snap a picture of a Terminator with a bikini-clad lady cooling off in the ocean right behind it. The Cobra in question is owned by Danny Thornton and it sports a Whipple blower and a JLT intake underhood.


There were a few new Shelby GT350s on hand and the lucky owner of this black 2016 example is Mike Malone, who was somehow able to keep his ebony machine clean in the sandy resort parking lot.


The Plantation Fire Department Honor Guard presented the colors to the attendees of the 9/11 Patriot Run before the playing of the national anthem.


This year the event select the Lieutenant Corporal Janos V. Lutz Live to Tell Foundation, which was founded by Janine Lutz, who told the heart-wrenching story of loosing her two sons the affects of post-combat PTSD and its ripple effects. The event generated donations from sponsors, raffles and participant donations. Here Steeda’s Glen Vitale donated $500 to the foundation. Another big donor was Juggernaut Power, which donated $2,000.


This is the Live to Tell foundation’s PTSD Memorial Wall. Each photo is of a veteran who took his or her own life as result of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We lose an estimated 20 veterans a day to this affliction and the foundation hopes to reduce that number by supporting vets with its Buddy Up Combat Outposts and a mobile app that will launch soon.

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