by Bill Adam

It was late on Saturday afternoon when I pulled down pit lane at the Homestead Miami speedway. The gleaming black & red Laguna Seca edition Boss 302 Mustang that I had driven all day had done a fantastic job and I was gently pulling it up against the pit wall, thinking that I had just given my last ride of the day. But as I came to a stop, a representative from  Baptist Children's Hospital came over to ask if I could just give one more ride, to a very special patient. Well, of course my answer was “yes”, and this ride turned out to be the most memorable of the day.

18 year old John Michael Portuondo, got into the car, eyes blazing with excitement and asked for a “fast ride”, telling me how much he loved this car. He touched the dashboard with loving hands and watched every gauge and every movement I made as I DID give him a “fast lap”. As we pulled back into the pit lane at the end of the two laps, he told me that this day had just been the most perfect of his life. He had just had a ride in one of his dream cars, on a great race track, and had just hours before learned that a perfect donor match had been found for his bone marrow transplant. He was leaving immediately for the operation. Yes indeed,  perfect for both of us!

Each year, our annual Rides N Smiles event gets bigger, and oh so much better for patients and volunteers alike, and this year was the best ever. More than 130 patients from  Baptist Children's Hospital and Miami Children’s Hospitals, got rides in their dream cars, a wonderful lunch supplied once again by the speedway, and goodie bags that were so full, they were too heavy for some children to carry. From the 9:00 am start to the finish of the day in the late afternoon, it was a day full of laughter, squeals of delight, and wide eyes as everyone gazed at the exotic collection of vehicles awaiting them. Those cars were:

General Motors Corvette anniversary model
  Camaro convertible
Porsche  911 GTS cabriolet
Ford Boss 302 Mustang Laguna Seca edition
Nissan 370Z convertible
  Infiniti G37
Mercedes Benz SLK
Chrysler Dodge Challenger 392
Toyota Lexus ISF
Subaru WRX


From special friends with huge hearts:  
William Scherer Ford GT
Doug Von Allmen Audi R8 V-10
Tom Gonzales Corvette ZR-1 and Ferrari 430 Scuderia
Ron Vogel Maserati convertible and Ferrari 458 Challenge racer

And if this magnificent collection wasn’t enough, we had more vehicles brought down and put on display

 - Aston Martin Vantage convertible
 -1969 427 Camaro
-Toyota Celica GT show car
- Dodge Viper coupe supercharged
- Dodge Challenger supercharged
- Ferrari 599
……………..talk about the ultimate toy store !!!!

But of much greater importance than the cars themselves, was the gift of giving, shown by so many of our members. For example, Kurt & Kate Ernst drove all the way down from their home in Jacksonville, paying for a hotel room themselves, and offering to contribute in any way they could. Chris Kavanaugh left his vacation in the islands, flew back to Miami on Friday night, worked at the track all day, and then flew back to continue his vacation on Sunday morning. Amazing generosity from unselfish people who know how to GIVE, and they set standards that we can all admire and aspire to!

To all of our members who came down to participate, I know that you are aware of being part of something very, very special. Like the movie of a few years ago, “Pay it Forward”, where good deeds encourage more good deeds, your efforts of this day DID make a difference, and I’m honored to have shared it with you all.

This was a day all about giving, and all those gorgeous cars were merely tools to be used to provide a day away from the pain, or discomfort that the children might normally face. This was a day for creating smiles, and we did!

Video by Javier Mota


Photos by Pepe Forte - www.ifriedegg.com - Rides N' Smiles 2011


Photos by Marlen Bedoya

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Photos by Pepe Delfino

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