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Race For Riley

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Race for Riley History

In 1997 the idea of a “match race” between John Andretti and WIBC radio producer Matt Hibbeln was suggested by Dave “The King” Wilson. The event was held in mid-December at Stefan Johanson’s Karting Center in Indianapolis. All monies raised were donated to Riley Hospital for Children. Riley Hospital was chosen as the charity benefactor for several reasons. John Andretti has not only visited the hospital on many occasions as a celebrity but also to visit his siblings. His brother, Mark and sister, Carolyn were both patients at Rileys. Riley is close to many people’s hearts as you never have to go very far to find someone who has been touched by their remarkable talents and treatment. By the way, John won the race, of course. Matt finished second or LAST! Matt wore a Bell Helmet that was created especially for the event with a replica of the Hindenberg covering almost the entire helmet. The helmet was quickly renamed by Dave Wilson as the “Hibbelnberg”. Matt did go down in flames. That first year the event raised $3,700.

For the second year, it was decided to include more people in the actual race event. The local businesses such as Pedigo Chevrolet, Pritt Electric, Dreyer and Reinbold BMW jumped on board with Stoops Freightliner as the title sponsor. Individuals got to compete in the races but for Matt the result never changed, LAST PLACE! The event drew a much larger crowd even though the weather was miserable including ice. The total grew as the event raised $24,000. Overall a huge jump but more would be expected for the future.

1999 was set to be the best year yet! The format was the same only more races and with continued support from local corporations the amount grew again to a whopping $55,000. Now this event was starting to get serious both on and off the track. Guess who finished in LAST PLACE? That’s right, Matt!

Due to weather and the holiday season, the 2000 event was moved to the week of the Brickyard 400 and has taken place at that time ever since. Over the next several years, the amounts continued to grow with appearances and participation in the races along with John Andretti, was Kyle Petty. Sponsors from John’s Petty Enterprises race team started to support the events with substantial donations and equity characters to liven up the show. Matt even became the Red Lobster as Lucky, Trix Rabbit, Pillsbury Dough Boy and the Honey Bee all made cameo appearances.

It just wasn’t enough and Dave Wilson wanted to do more than just raise money for the Hospital starting in 2002. He wanted to promote the hospital and increase the awareness of Riley Hospital’s capabilities, treatments, compassion and the future. So he took his radio broadcast to the hospital where Matt dressed as the Red Lobster could entertain the kids. In the meantime, Dave interviewed everyone who had a message about Riley including Doctors, Patients, Parents, EMT’s, Nurses and Staff. General Mills with its Cheerios brand sent pallets of goodies to be distributed to the patients and families not only for this hospital visit but also for those who would be treated. John Andretti visited the children who could not come down to visit and passed out these goodies along with signing autographs. The biggest hit was the General Mills equity characters and not just with the kids. The visit to the hospital has been the high point each year since and reaffirms what makes “The Race for Riley” important.

For the 7th Annual event, “The Cheerios Race for Riley” got an additional partner with Kroger coming on board. Now known as “The Kroger Race for Riley presented by Cheerios,” the event made another huge stride forward yet again. In addition to Kroger’s donation, the company partnered with General Mills to display “pull” balloons. A Kroger customer could “purchase” as many balloons as desired for $1.00 donation. Included on the balloons are General Mills coupons worth almost $2.00. All the money raised by coupons purchases was directly donated to Riley Hospital. The community responded with great generosity as this pushed the event totals to record heights.

With the continued exponential growth of the event, it was time to relocate. Thanks to our racing friends at New Castle Motorsports Park, Mark and Donna Dismore, “The Kroger Race for Riley presented by Cheerios” found a great home in 2004. Coupled with their vision and generosity the event is again bursting at the seams. For the records and even though it has not been mentioned for each year’s event, Matt has finished LAST every time. Don’t let him fool you, he really does try!

2005 was another great event. NEXTEL simulators, Blackhawk Helicopter, Rock Climbing Wall, Autograph tent featuring Tony Stewart, Ricky Rudd, Sarah Fisher, Boston Reid and Josh Wise were on site in full force. What a great time and all money collected went directly to Riley Hospital. Kroger even went the next step to rename the longest continuous NASCAR sponsorship of the IRP NASCAR Busch Series race as the “Kroger 200 to benefit Riley Hospital for Children.” Way to go!

In 2006, all records were broken thanks to the continued support of our sponsors, family, friends and the great people that believe in the future growth and value of Riley Hospital for Children.  Over $175,000 was raised and has placed that elusive $1 MILLION total donations received over the last 11 years squarely in our cross-hairs!  Currently, Race for Riley has raised over $880,000 in the past 10 years so with another great event in 2007, we can reach the top level of the winner's podium!  This can only happen and has only been possible by all of you, our supports.  Please come and join the celebration in 2007.

Can you believe it?  Over $1,000,000 has been raised for the Riley Hospital for Children celebrating the 12th year of the "Kroger Race for Riley presented by Cheerios".   No one is even sure if John Andretti or Dave Wilson could have imagined such a milestone.  The only reason it has become a reality is due to all the special companies and individuals contributing their time, energy and resources to this wonderful event.  Now comes the time to strive for the next plateau!

2008 continued the progress and growth of the "Kroger Race for Riley presented by Cheerios" by raising over $185,000, setting yet another record!  Tony Stewart again for the 4th consecutive year made an appearance to greet the fans, raise the awareness of the Race for Riley and help collect some donations for his efforts.  The Goodyear blimp made an appearance as well making this year's event even more special.  Moving into the big leagues now!  All the racing was action packed and even Matt set a new record by not finishing LAST.  This all happened due to a mechanical failure on another competitor's kart.  Don't forget to check in for the 2009 events as the new goal is over $200,000 for the event.  Hope to see you there.

Rain, rain, and even more rain was the story for the 2009 "Kroger Race for Riley presented by Cheerios".   Fortunately, the loyal supporters, fans, racers and media kept their smiling faces as New Castle Motorsports Park hosted a great event.   Tony Stewart and Sarah Fisher, both making yet another appearance at the event was the usual big hit.  The racing still went on for the competitors but as for the guests, it is just too dangerous.  Talk is going on about a "makeup" date in 2010 for the 2009 sponsors, media and public.  The best news is that even with all of bad weather, Riley Hospital for Children collected a record amount for the events at $209,000. 

In 2010, we ended up with a double header as expected but the 2009 makeup event was earlier than the actual Race for Riley event.  The weather was great for both events and a huge crowd came out to have some more fun.  We still see many of the same supporters but there continues to be a equal amount of new faces ready for action.  With a new record amount, the Race for Riley has now surpassed a grand total of $1,600,000 to benefit the Riley Hospital for Children.

Now in our 15th year, can you believe it?  Our goals were high and with a new record amount just short of $250,000 raised, we are closing in on the $2 million mark.  The events were all successful as the Window World Progressive Dinner took on a new look thanks to our great friends at Kroger.  It was still at the WESTIN Indianapolis and of course, the Race for Riley was again located at Mark and Donna Dismore's New Castle Motorsports Park.  The races were full of excitement and great competition.  Always close racing with each race being decided on the last lap!  Where will we go from here?  Well, plans are already being discussed as to how we can do more for Riley Hospital for Children by making each event even more exciting.  Please be sure to check in and thank you for a wonderful "ride" these last 15 years as we look forward to the next 15!