Rally for a Cause

Putting the “Fun” in Fundraising

Ashley Dietrich - September 27, 2012 10:00 AM


The Gotta Have It Green Mustang of Team CJ Pony Parts pulls in to get started on the Rally Dixie. CJ Pony Parts was the title sponsor of this year’s effort.


Capital City GTO Club brought a number of entries again. The club was a force in the 2011 Rally Appalachia.


Team Stangy ran with Team Riff Raff throughout the rally. There was a variety of cars again this year, but a fair share of Mustangs made the journey.


Organizers Scott Spielman and Tony Intrieri are joined by Accelerated Cure Project for Multiple Sclerosis official Karen Crumback, getting ready to send the teams out for day one.


Greg and Kim Rada own rally sponsor Dermal Additions and competed in honor of Kim’s mom.


Ashley took a little time from writing this story to pose with her husband, Tom, at one of the checkpoints.


Team Struck was ready for the drag racing side of things. This is one of the burnout kings who showed their stuff during competition.


Talk about close. The heavier Crown Vic beat the Prius by .013 seconds in their matchup. Team Cream reigned victorious.


The rally is an attention getter at all of the stops along the way. Many of the locals were curious about the activity, which gave participants a chance to raise additional funds.


The heavy clouds in advance of Tropical Storm Debby loom over the beach, the end of the three-day journey. Next stop – the awards ceremony.


With real law enforcement in the background, Team Cream set their 2012 theme and it was enough to win the Theme/Costume competition.


Smoky start to the day for team CCR Racing, a dedicated drag car that ran the three days despite a 10-gallon fuel tank and plenty of issues. The car came all the way from Michigan, as 28 states and three Canadian provinces were represented.


While the sun is setting on Rally Dixie, it is rising on next year’s plans. Participants are anxiously awaiting the details and we’ll pass them along when we get them at

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When you think about it, the CJ Pony Parts Rally Dixie 2012 actually started with the end of the 2011 Rally Appalachia.

As the teams crossed the finish line in Charleston, South Carolina, in July, 2011, many of the participants had already made up their minds – if they do this again, I want to be there.

Organizers of Rally North America — the braintrust behind Rally Appalachia and Rally Dixie — has a simple purpose that is well understood by those involved. It’s the ability to bring together a group that likes to drive, see the country, have a little fun and raise money for a worthy organization.

The two mad men geniuses behind the Rally North America are Tony Intrieri and Scott Spielman. A few now veteran rallyist teams have all joined forces to provide an annual excursion that exemplifies rallying for a cause.

Before we go on, let’s get some things straight. These rallies are not the type where speed is the most important consideration. In fact, a speeding ticket in this rally is an automatic disqualification. While there are considerations for those who complete the tasks in the quickest time, the idea of raising awareness for the charity is never far from the top of the list of daily importance.

You don’t have to have a specially equipped car or vast amounts of experience. It’s the common man (and woman) in a fundraising effort and rally. Rally Dixie raised more than $48,000 for the Accelerated Cure Project for Multiple Sclerosis.

In order to make the rally something that is affordable and manageable for the participants, Tony and Scott pick a summer date in the middle of the week, which leads to lower hotel rates. At a pre-rally meeting on the night before the start, the rules and specifics are explained. Helping teams, which are a part of the rally, do not take part in the competitive side of things, but assist those who are taking the challenge of the course. The rally teams have all paid their nominal entry fee, directly donated to the Accelerated Cure Project, booked and paid for their lodging and solicited donations.

Prior to the start of this year’s event, the Rally North America team was able to get great donations for an auction to raise even more money. Items up for bid included a Monster racing helmet, a radio-controlled Ken Block Ford Fiesta, battery jump packs, jungle hats (including one worn by Woody Harrelson in the movie Zombieland), and a multitude of products from Monster, Brannon Auto Parts, and a number of generous individuals. The auction raised an additional $1,790.

As participants in the rally, we were always thrilled to know that the charity is gratefully and delighted to be involved. Karen Crumback, the development director of the Waltham, Massachusetts-based Accelerated Cure Project, joined us for the first two days of the event. She jokingly said she went to a few stores looking for pom-poms to have at the starting line. She was bubbling with energy and excitement and her enthusiasm was infectious. Karen was also a great source to explain the purpose of the Accelerated Cure Project.

The Accelerated Cure Project (ACP) is a repository for DNA and blood samples donated by people who are affected by multiple sclerosis. The repository gets requests from scientists for groupings of samples within parameters specified. The ACP will send the samples and, in return, the scientists will share their results to create a larger base of knowledge and information, adding pieces to solving the multiple sclerosis puzzle. Currently, there are only treatment options with the ultimate goal being a cure.

The ACP was started by Art Mellor after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Art was not a doctor or researcher, but he decided to leave his start-up company and launch the Boston Cure Project. In 2005, the company expanded and was given a more formal name of the Accelerated Cure Project for Multiple Sclerosis.

Rally North America announced their involvement with ACP eight months in advance of the 2012 event. This gave teams months to talk about the charity and raise funds and awareness. They would often find people who have been touched by multiple sclerosis. The cause and charity hit especially close to home for Greg and Kim Rada, who own Dermal Additions. Kim’s mom was diagnosed with MS, so when the couple heard about the involvement, they decided to be a rally sponsor. The decals on their Charger were stunning and beautiful, but the most touching decal simply read “For Mom”.

The time arrived for the teams to hit the road to spend three days travelling from Noblesville, Indiana, to the Florida panhandle. There were 80 cars ranging from a SMART car to a Dodge Viper GTS. With two participants on a team, the 160 members came from 28 states and three Canadian provinces. They brought coolers, drinks, snacks, GPS units, electronic tablets, maps, atlases and books to run an unknown route.

Each day, teams would get the daily list of checkpoints and assignments. Find the places, take a picture with a date and time stamp and move on to the next checkpoint. Inevitably, along the way, people would ask about what we were doing or what it was all about. This became an opportunity to talk to them about and promote the cause and point them to the website to make a donation.

The diversity of the group led to three types of participants – one group wanted to win, another just wanted to make all the checkpoints, and the third just wanted to be a part of the action at the race tracks. For the last group, day one was a Figure 8 track, day two offered a dragstrip and day three included Talladega Superspeedway. Not everyone participated in the Figure 8 segment, but those who did take a few crazy 8 laps said it was wild. You only needed to take one pass to get your checkpoint card, but the teams were not penalized for taking a few extra laps, though you lost time if you stayed too long at one spot. Just about everyone wanted a shot at the dragstrip. The Mustangs, GTOs and Team Struck, the Ford Lightning, had to play and play they did. Some teams took four runs or more.

Our team, Team Riff Raff, ran with Team Stangy, so we had to square off at the dragstrip, too. At the line, we watched the lights with our adrenaline coursing – pre-stage, stage, yellow, yellow, yellow, green. Accelerate through the gears, keep a straight line and be amazed at how rapidly you come to the finish line. Then it’s over. Team Stangy says, “Let’s do it again.”

At the Talladega Superspeedway, if you were able to go fast enough, you almost didn’t have to turn the steering wheel. There were some simple rules like no hanging back and no passing the pace car. It was a thrill for those who put their ride through the paces, but there were more checkpoints.

The participants who did the rally to enjoy the countryside and see the sights were not disappointed this year. There were covered bridges in Indiana. Kentucky offered Churchill Downs, the National Corvette Museum and the “old town” section of Lexington. In addition to Talladega, Alabama offered the Little River Preserve in Fort Payne with scenic outlooks and stunning falls. The white sands at the Gulf of Mexico in Fort Walton Beach in Florida was welcoming, but sadly we knew it meant the end of the rally.

Rally Dixie wouldn’t be over until the awards ceremony was conducted. Honors included the daily winners, Best Costume/Theme, Hard Luck, Long Distance and “Spirit of the Rally”.

Team Raptor Pursuit earned honorable mention in Costume/Theme. Jeff and Gail Rushing were dressed in safari outfits, in the 2010 Ford Raptor 4 x 4. Props included remote control raptor trucks, tiny inflatable raptors and an inflatable raptor in a cage in the truck bed.

The winners of the award were Troy Kirchmat and Phil Marchini, Team Cream. This team, which picked up the honor last year with their ice cream theme, went with a law enforcement theme in a retired Ford Crown Vic Police vehicle. They walked the walk for the entire rally, dressing like Reno 911 characters and switching gears to a Hawaii 5-0 theme. When they were not directing traffic in what could only be described as “the most flamboyant hip swingers officers ever,” they were making arrests including Gumby and his horse, Pokey, most of the flag girls and preying on anyone who actually believed they may be law enforcement officers.

The Hard Luck award is the least desirable, but necessary. Team Fire-Chicken (Thomas Diley and Jeffery Peterson) came to the rally in a 1979 Firebird that had been resurrected from a barn. The exhaust fell off twice, the carburetor float stuck, the headliner was falling down and the pervasive odor of cat urine was obvious (thank you, T-tops). The car ran out of gas, overheated, leaked and even caught fire. They had Nicholas Zuber following in an S-10 pickup with gas cans and tools. These team members made it through Afghanistan as members of the United States military and now have endured the CJ Pony Parts Rally Dixie.

Honorable mention for Hard Luck was Carl Bowen and Team CCR Racing. Bowen brought a dedicated drag car from Michigan to compete. He had a hard start each of the three days, ran out of gas multiple times and still made it to the end. When asked about his mileage and how many miles per gallon he was getting, Bowen replied, “It’s miles per gas can and I’m not sure.”

The Long Distance award winner was Team G60, Jon Dow and Kyle Story, who came all the way from Maine, a total of 3,865 miles. Brian Shannon and Team T.U.N.A. were given the “Spirit of the Rally” award for staging all of the teams at the race track events and working on rally sponsors throughout the year.

Capital City GTO Club once again put a number of cars in the rally while doing the registration and simplifying matters for participants. Dale Clough kept the teams updated and handled rally items when needed.

As a second year participant, it’s easy to understand how this adventure transforms from something that is full of unknowns and roads less travelled, literally and figuratively. It becomes a task rooted in love, the spirit of giving, and fun with some trying times and many memorable times wrapped up and stuffed in your car.