Constable: School nurse boosts fundraiser by donating Indy pace car
As a nurse at Kirk School in Palatine, Wendy Meyer must be patient with students who possess a wide range of developmental and physical disabilities. She's also patient with her prized 1993 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car Chevy Camaro, driving it only on summer days when the weather is nice. But when it comes to a fundraising drive to build an athletic track for her students, Meyer loses her patience.
"We've been working almost four years. C'mon!" says Meyer, who found a way to accelerate the fund drive. "To kick it up a notch I decided to donate my 1993 Camaro Indy Pace Car."
Having registered just 12,122 miles in 23 years, the collector car has been appraised at $17,000 but could fetch $100,000 if the school can sell 5,000 raffle tickets at $20 each.
"Here, I love you guys, take this. That's the bottom line," Meyer says, noting the car will be raffled off at the annual Kirk School Walk and Wheel-A-Thon from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday on the grounds at 520 S. Plum Grove Road. "There are 175 of these wonderful kids, and they just deserve the world. I want them to have the track and the playground that goes with it."
A new track would ease the problem of Kirk students, ages 3 to 21, being disqualified often in the Special Olympics, says Nick Mueller, who has been an adaptive physical education teacher at Kirk for seven years.
"Right now, we're limited to just using our gym. There are no lanes, so we get disqualified a lot for leaving our lanes," Mueller says. While new fencing built with the proceeds from previous Walk and Wheel-A-Thons lets students run outside on a grass field, that's a tough environment for wheelchairs.
"We don't take the non-ambulatory students out there because it's so difficult," Mueller says.
An athletic track incorporated with some special exercise equipment would give all students the chance to practice races, learn how to stay inside a painted lane and become familiar with equipment students might find in suburban parks once they graduate from Kirk, says Principal Kim Dungan.
"This is the first time we've had a car to raffle," Dungan says, noting she was the one who got to bring the car out of storage and deliver it to the school.
"I got to drive it back from Morton Grove. It's amazing," says the principal, who admits to no lawbreaking but says she's confident the car "runs great" at 65 mph. "It's got a race-car sounding, cool engine."
It also gets a respectable 19 miles per gallon, says Meyer, who lives in Buffalo Grove and says she has never been tempted to see if the speedometer can reach the 150-mph register. "I'm not a speeder. It's that nurse thing. I'm a safety girl."
The planned track, which would measure one-sixth of a mile around and include room for 200-meter sprints, would fit in the grassy area behind the school and has an army of volunteers working to raise funds.
"This school is unique," says Mueller, who is married to fellow teacher Rosa Mueller.
"There's such a strong connection between parents, staff and the community," says Dungan, whose husband, Steve, 18-year-old son, Alexander, and 15-year-old daughter, Libby, volunteer at the school. Meyer says her significant other, Marc Rabin, came up with the idea of raffling off the car. Her kids -- Steven, 30, Lara, 28, and Brian, nicknamed Bam, 26 -- are fine with her donating the iconic car, and Lara and her husband, Manuel DeMoya, created the website for online donations.
You can buy raffle tickets for the car at kirkschool.eventbrite.com or at Sunday's event. You don't need to be present to win. You also can send tax-deductible donations to PATHS, the school's charitable organization, at Kirk School, 520 S. Plum Grove Road, Palatine, IL 60067.
When her Camaro goes to the raffle winner, Meyer's summer car will be another Chevy -- her 2002 Suburban with 150,000 miles on it. She says she'll miss her Camaro, but not as much as she'd regret not doing all she can to help the Kirk students.
"When I grew up, things were not as important as people. This is just a thing," Meyer says of the Camaro.
"But," interjects Dungan, "it's an amazing thing. So you need to buy raffle tickets."