Cruise 4 Kids
An exclusive luxury car rally from Hotel del Coronado to a private jet hangar at the Carlsbad Airport.
The tricky thing about having a hobby is that sometimes people close to you can feel neglected or relegated to the “back seat” when you’re indulging in it. Whether it’s golf, marathon running, or breeding horses, there’s time spent on the pursuit that, by its very nature, means you’re less available for other people and things.
So what if your hobby is cars? What if you want to tune, restore, collect, or simply just drive and admire exotic, expensive, luxury automobiles? How can you indulge and not feel guilty – and how can you involve family and friends so they feel part of the fun? And what if, and this could be the Holy Grail, pursuit of this passion produced a benevolent result for others and allowed you to make a broader difference in the world?
Well, if you like how this sounds, Nino Venturella and the San Dieguito Boys & Girls Club have a proposition for you, if only for one day per year – and the chance that the good feelings shared by all will linger long after?
It’s called Cruise 4 Kids, and it’s an exclusive 40-mile luxury car rally that travels from the Hotel del Coronado over the Coronado bridge, through downtown, and up the coast to a private jet hangar at the Carlsbad Airport. It features wide-open, traffic-cleared city-streets and freeways, brunch at the start and catered lunch at the terminus. It boasts Porsches, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and a 1967 Rolls Royce once owned by the Queen of England. It promises all green lights and no flashing lights.
It’s all this – and it raises money for charity.
“Cruise 4 Kids takes something people are passionate about, and creates something fun for them that also benefits a good cause. It’s a total ‘win-win’,” says Nino Venturella, a private banker with Wells Fargo and board member of the San Dieguito Boys & Girls Club, which is the beneficiary of the event. “A lot of people love cars – guys with exotic sports cars, especially. I know these guys, and ladies too, are also really philanthropic. My idea was that these folks had had enough with the golf tournaments, galas, and wine tastings. But what if we created a way for them to indulge in their favorite pastime and do good at the same time? That would be magic.”
Annie Ragovin, Director of Fundraising and Communications for San Dieguito Boys & Girls Club (SDBGC), agrees there’s something magical about the event, even if she was taken by surprise when Venturella when first proposed it. “To tell you the truth, I thought he was crazy,” she says. “But that’s the beauty of our Board, we encourage them to find a way to contribute that meets their needs and matches their interests. Nino’s a ‘car guy,’ and this may be an extreme example, but it’s exactly what we mean when we ask for the Board to get involved.”
Ragovin, who has headed up development and PR for SDBGC for nine years, says this is by far “the most complicated event we put on. It makes the galas seem like a walk in the park.” And yet, it’s already one of the most popular and talked-about events, getting great press for the Club, and bringing new donors to the table all the time. “Almost 100% of the participants are brand new donors to the Boys & Girls Club, and in fundraising that’s what you’re always trying to do, find interesting ways to bring new people in.”
Nino explains that he hand-picks a lot of the participants, working his network of high-net worth clients and their friends, visiting car shows, and tapping into the “car club” scene around town. “Another cool thing about Cruise 4 Kids is that it brings together ‘Porsche guys’ with ‘Ferrari guys,’ and all that. Because the event is focused on fun and charity, it’s like ‘Switzerland’ and we all get together for a good time and a good cause.”
Ragovin and Venturella report that this year’s event, to be held Saturday, September 7th, will be the third year, and they’re anticipating a sell-out. “We had 73 drivers the first year and 144 last year,” Venturella says. “And because of the popularity of it, we’ve been able to more than double the participation fee from the first year to $750/car. Our goal is to get to $1000 per car, and raise $100,000 for the Club.”
Not to be cynical, but drivers admit that another reason the event has gotten so popular is that it allows these guys (and most of them are guys, although wives and girlfriends are much in evidence) a chance to show off their cars – and drive them across the Coronado Bridge, through downtown and up I-5 with their path completely cleared by law enforcement.
Jeff Abramson, owner of Cavallo Motor Sports, and both a rally participant and corporate sponsor, says you can’t underestimate the draw of indulging in your passion with a bunch of other people who share it. “If you drive a car like this, it’s obviously not a necessity and you want to show it off. You get a lot of attention when you get to parade through the middle of town during the middle of the weekend with a hundred other cars,” he says. “Combine that with the cause, and it’s all good.”
CHP Captain Rich Stewart is one of those who makes the “parading” possible, and he’s a big fan as well. Cruise 4 Kids contracts with the California Highway Patrol to provide the traffic breaks on the I-5 to give them smooth sailing up the coast. “Sure there’s a lot of logistics, but we’re happy to do it because it’s great fun for a great cause.” Stewart says the drivers get a safety briefing before they take off reminding them that all the rules of the road apply. “Sure these cars go fast, but everyone knows that’s not the point of the event, and there haven’t been any citations.”
In addition to the CHP, Cruise 4 Kids has to coordinate with San Diego and Carlsbad Police Departments, CalTrans, San Diego Sheriff Department, and the California and San Diego Film Commissions (the whole thing is captured on film by car-mounted cameras and a helicopter flying overhead), among others.
Ragovin and Venturella see a long road ahead – filled with exotic cars and happy driver/donors. “People may be familiar with the San Dieguito Boys & Girls Club because their kids have participated in our programs. What they might not know is that we’ve got seven sites, and kids and families at each of them that attend on scholarship.” At one location in Solana Beach, called La Colonia, all 110 kids in the program receive subsidized enrollment.
“Sure this rally is a lot of fun, and these cars are amazing to look at, but don’t doubt for a minute that something very tangible is happening and a very real difference is being made with the money raised by this event,” she says.