Corvettes on the Columbia revs up to raise money for Make-A-Wish

Eight years ago, McCurley Integrity Dealerships was looking for a way to reach out to Corvette enthusiasts.

[blockquote quote=”The proceeds from our event stay in Eastern Washington. From Spokane to Walla Walla, that’s where the money goes.” source=”Matthew Price, commercial accounts manager for McCurley Integrity Dealerships” align=”right” max_width=”300px”]

“We’ve always sold Corvettes, but we wanted to expand that market and let ourselves be known as a hub for Corvette activity,” said Matthew Price, Corvette specialist and commercial accounts manager for the dealership. “There are several Corvette clubs in Eastern Washington, and we thought, ‘Why don’t we put on a Corvette show?’”

With the help of the 3 Rivers Corvette Club, the dealership was able to reach out to Corvette owners around the state and gather them together for a casual summer event at Columbia Park.

“It was a hit, and everyone had a great time,” said Price.

But the dealership quickly realized it wanted to do more than showcase cars. The staff wanted to impact the community by partnering with a local charity.

Price began talking with a representative from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that grants wishes for children diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions. The local chapter, which is comprised of Alaska and Washington, reports that one-in-four seriously ill children in the district it serves are unable to receive a wish because of lack of funding.

“We found out that the average cost to fulfill a wish was around $5,000,” said Price.

So the dealership set out to make wishes come true. Price became official coordinator and the event was named Corvettes on the Columbia.

“That very first official event, from entries, donations from car owners and people who came by the dealership that weekend, we raised $4,800,” said Price. “And Craig (Cavanaugh) and Bill (McCurley) pulled me aside because they saw the same vision I saw, that we were onto something,” he said.

They encouraged Price to grow the event, and that’s exactly what McCurley Integrity Dealerships has done for nearly a decade.

Last year’s event raised $118,486, and they were able to grant more than two dozen wishes throughout Eastern Washington.

“The proceeds from our event stay in Eastern Washington. From Spokane to Walla Walla, that’s where the money goes,” said Price. “Outside of the Seattle area, our little car show has turned into the largest external event for Make-A-Wish throughout the Northwest.”

Corvettes on the Columbia is a weekend-long event that kicks off the first weekend in June. The 3 Rivers Corvette Club is the host club for the event, contacting Corvette clubs from around the country. Last year, visitors drove from eight states as well as Canada to attend Corvettes on the Columbia. Price expects anywhere from 350 to 400 Corvettes to descend on the Tri-Cities in 2016.

The event begins June 3, with a Friday afternoon cruise in Columbia Park. Then, car enthusiasts and event supporters meet up at the Pasco Red Lion hotel to socialize at a 5:30 banquet. Later that evening, there’s a comedy show in the courtyard.

“Every year we bring in A-list comedians,” said Price.

Saturday is the day car owners show off their corvettes in Columbia Park.

“We’re looking for any and all Corvettes. You don’t have to be judged or be a club member to be involved.”

Saturday night is a time to celebrate the best cars in the show, but more importantly, to present a check to the Make-A-Wish organization so wishes can be granted.

Wishes vary from wanting to have a tea party to be a super hero.

“Quite often, the children don’t believe in dreaming anymore,” said Price. “Once they grasp the concept, ‘I want to be Batman.’ The question becomes, ‘What would you want to do if you were Batman?’”

Money raised from events such as Corvettes on the Columbia help make those dreams a reality. For instance, one child wished to fly with Peter Pan and got to ride in a helicopter. The Make-A-Wish organization said wishes provide hope and excitement for children to carry through their medical procedures and treatments.

Corvettes on the Columbia helped another child who has an affliction that makes her immune system weak. She wanted nothing more than to go camping.

“We were able to remodel an airstream trailer with special filters to protect her. It was retrofitted for her, and she got to go camping,” said Price. “With happiness, they seem to be on the road to recovery or handle their medicine better.”

And while events such as Corvettes on the Columbia raise money to fulfill wishes, sometimes dreams don’t come true in time.

A young boy from the Tri-Cities wanted to meet Lightning McQueen from Cars. Plans to create that wish were moving forward at a rapid pace when the boy was rushed to a Seattle hospital for care.

“I reached out to the Seattle Corvette club and said, ‘Here’s the situation…What if we try to do something in Seattle?’ We were putting the wish together as fast as we could,” said Price. “We were going to go up there that weekend and getting ready to leave—and my phone went off. I knew at that moment something was wrong. He didn’t make it.”

From the tragedy came renewed vigor though, and Corvettes on the Columbia’s fundraising efforts doubled that year. Last year’s fundraising efforts were the best yet, but Price faces a big challenge as they head into the homestretch for the 2016 event.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Make-A-Wish organization, McCurley wants the Corvettes on the Columbia to fulfill 30 wishes this year.

“It’s going to take a lot of work, but I’m very lucky and blessed to have the rest of the management team saying, ‘Go for it!’” Price said.

Corvettes on the Columbia also has support from local businesses. Sponsors include Local Union 598 Plumbers and Steamfitters, GESA Credit Union, PayneWest Insurance and A-One Refrigeration & Heating, to name a few.

“We’ve had tremendous help with corporate sponsorships to cover the costs,” said Price, who added that Red Lion hotel is very supportive, as are business leaders such as Round Table Pizza owner Chuck Stack who helps with registration.

With the event fast approaching, Price said they have a block of rooms set aside at the hotel and have already exceeded 50 percent in pre-registration. Attendees do not have to own a Corvette and can purchase tickets for the Friday night comedy or Saturday night concert events in the courtyard through the Pasco Red Lion directly. A portion of the ticket sales will go toward the Make-A-Wish fundraiser.

The pre-event starts in May with Wheels for Wishes, a month where a portion of the proceeds from every car sold at McCurley Integrity Dealerships goes to the nonprofit. For information on sponsoring or entering your Corvette for the June event, contact Price at 509-544-6265, or go to www.3riverscorvetteclub.net.

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