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The Gazette KCRG
Posted May 16, 2012
Camp Courageous Car Cruise Celebrates 25th Anniversary

CEDAR RAPIDS — With such an early spring this year, the cars have long come out of mothballs, are spit polished and running great, and are ready for cruisin’. So, with the 25th anniversary of Cruisin’ for Camp Courageous this Sunday at the camp off Highway 38 southeast of Monticello, expect to see the street rods and hot rods, the muscle cars and antiques, the Corvettes and the VW Beetles out in full force.

If the sponsoring Cedar Valley Street Rods have their wish, this will be another record-setting year. More than 300 cars showed up last year to raise $35,000 for the camp that provides year-round recreation for adults and children with special needs. That was a cruisin’ record — but it can be broken.

“It started as a wet day, but the people came out and it was a great day,” recalls street rods member Mary Johnson, 58, who along with her husband, Brad, 59, (right) have organized the cruise the last 13 years.

I caught up with the street rodders in Cedar Rapids for a recent pre-cruise celebration. Members were all hyped up for another successful year.

“We couldn’t do it without everybody’s help,” says Mary (left). “The club and all the people. It’s a show for everyone.”

“If it wasn’t for them,” adds Charlie Becker, executive director of Camp Courageous, “this thing could have died.”

In a quarter of a century, the cruise has raised more than $200,000 for the camp. Club members have even spent time constructing buildings at the camp that caters to people of all ages with mental and physical disabilities, brain injures and autism, hearing and visual impairment.

“I think it’s a great organization,” Mary says. “I have family members that have gone there for trips.”

The cruise began in Cedar Rapids, was held in the Amana Colonies and Great Jones County Fair fairgrounds for a time, then moved permanently to the camp. That allows visitors to not only see the cars but also the facilities. Camp Courageous, founded 40 years ago, has gone from 211 campers in 1974 when it opened to 6,144 campers last summer.

“This is a fundraiser,” Charlie (right) says, “but it also helps get the word out.”

Butch Slocum, 68, (left) of Marion, remembers taking his purple 1923 Bucket-T up the first few years and will have his blue and silver ‘37 Ford coupe on display this year.

“I like the camp,” Butch says. “It does great things for great people.”

Dave Wheatley, his longtime friend who joined the street rodders the same year (1977), will take his third ‘32 Ford sedan this year. That first year he took his ‘40 Ford.

We were looking for a charity,” says Dave, 65, (right) of Cedar Rapids. “We always did the Jerry Lewis Telethon and gave kids rides for a buck. It evolved into doing things for the camp.”

Dave fondly remembers working on the pony barn, especially on a ramp so young campers could climb aboard “Tony the Pony” for a ride.

“I miss Tony the Pony,” laughs Charlie. “Those were the good old days at camp.”

And that’s what cruisin’ is all about — reliving the good old days with cars for the camp’s brighter future.

Comments: (319) 398-8323; dave.rasdal@sourcemedia.net

Where: Camp Courageous of Iowa, 12007 190th Street, which is southeast of Monticello two miles east of Highway 38.

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Admission: A $5 donation is requested.

Activities: In addition to the cars and a car-part art contest, the festivities include live music, kids games, live and silent auctions and crafts and antiques show.

Car entries: Anyone can enter a vehicle for $15. Trophies will be awarded in 33 classes.

For more information: www.campcourageous.org/?page_id=759 or www.cedarvalleystreetrods.org

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