7th Annual SAMA's Rides & Smiles at Homestead Miami Speedway - 22 November 2014


The 7th annual Rides N Smiles event, was by far, our largest and best event ever, not only reaching the goals of our dreams, but surpassing them. Despite threatening weather, more that 150 children battling serious medical challenges, attended from 2 Baptist Children’s hospitals and Miami Children’s Hospital, along with almost 100 Wounded Warriors and their families. Crowds were everywhere, and the excitement in the air was palpable.

Each year we always see some of our “little” guests arrive before the suggested time of 8:30, as their excitement overpowers their parents suggestions of sleep, and this year we saw them AND some of the military. Yes, they too were anxious to get up close to the astounding collection of cars gathered for this year. From our dear friends within the companies, we had:

2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat
2015 Corvette Stingray Z06
2015 Porsche Turbo S cabriolet
2015 BMW i8
2015 Nissan GT
2015 Nissan GTR Nismo
2015 Jaguar F Type
2015 Mazda MX5
2015 Mercedes Benz S63 AMG Coupe
2015 Hyundai Genesis 5.0
2015 Lexus IS 350C
2015 Subaru WRX STi

And if that’s not enough, from wonderful friends with huge hearts we had a 2015 Dodge Viper T/A and SRT Jeep (supercharged, of course), from Bob & Jeanne Panoff, 2015 Porsche 918 and Ferrari FXX Evo from Preston Henn. Race driver Alex Popow brought down his race trailer full of dreams, including his race ready Daytona Prototype to which he had fitted a 2nd seat for rides, the Petit LeMans winning ALMS prototype, a Ferrari 458 Speciale and his Porsche GT3. Whew!

Ron Vogel, VP of Ferrari Fort Lauderdale, also brought their race trailer with another Ferrari 458, and our own Manny Sanchez brought his always popular silver Corvette race car. Perennial favorite William Scherer sold his spectacular Ford GT, but still send down his Nascar Championship Penske Dodge for all to see and love. Chris Kavanaugh, a member who continues to give his time & effort every year, brought down his shockingly beautiful teal colored Ferrari F12. Wow!

Rounding out this remarkable collection was a stunning 2015 Stingray that the owner, a retired veteran himself named Russell Banks, had painted up to match the US Air Force Thunderbird F-16 jet, and a wonderful group of military vehicles arranged for by SFC Joseph Hawkins of the US Army. WW II Jeeps and motorcycle, along with a Hummer were never left without youngsters climbing all over them.

These cars were all part of another event the day before at the SAMA “Thanks to our Military” car show at the Homestead Air Force base next to the Speedway, where despite an endless rain, the men & women of the 482d Fighter Wing enjoyed the sight of the cars set all around one of their Mako Squadron F-16 fighters. For us, though, the treat was getting “up close &personal: as we were taken out to within feet of the active runway to experience REAL horsepower as F-16’s roared past us on “afterburner” takeoffs. Words cannot describe it! Perhaps the best part of the day was where Road & Track magazine, had a “race” against an F-16, in the new Dodge Challenger Hellcat. Video will be coming out soon, so keep your eyes open for it.
As we all know, this day is about “giving back”, about sharing what we are fortunate enough to enjoy with others, and two things from the weekend left me humbled and appreciative. Juan Robbin, very generously stepped up to buy our “Rides N Smiles” t-shirts for everyone, not an inconsiderable amount, and asked only for a very small company logo on the sleeve. And Manny Sanchez, when learning that the person who was supposed to bring water for everyone had not, pulled out his own credit card and sent someone running to the nearby Publix to buy it himself. Class gentlemen!

Another dear friend for many years, Andy Pilgrim also somehow found the time in his incredibly busy schedule, to drive his own Cadillac down and give gentle rides to familes. But of much greater impact was his gift of safe driving videos to each family, a video that he produced and paid for himself, trying to impart some of his wisdom to make safer young drivers. Andy currently races successfully for the factory Cadillac race team in the Pirelli World Challenge and is as perfect an ambassador as any company could hope for. He left everyone smiling and in admiration of his many talents.

As always, our VERY special friends at Prestige were simply spectacular. It has become their standard to handle things with perfection and once again they did! To Marcello, Angelo, Tony and all of their people, my thanks for your tireless attention to detail.
Once again, I am so proud to be part of SAMA, an organization with members who care! Now………on to year number 8 and let the games begin!


Bill Adam