Gone Racin’…with D.R.A.W.
All participants in every racing sport look forward to setting new records, capturing championships and raising the bar just a little higher for their competitors to beat. We hardly ever think of disasters, crashes, injuries or death. When they occur, we are shocked and dismayed, wondering in awe why we should be so afflicted. Yet danger, injury and death have always been our riding companions. They are the silent and unseen specters that haunt the other side of our team’s effort. Though we may resist thinking about this negative side of racing, there are a few who have embraced the challenge that racing accidents pose and have created a most impressive organization.
In 1984, Shirley Muldowney was seriously injured in her Top Fuel Dragster, and a few of the wives of the racer’s conducted a fundraiser to help Shirley with her medical bills and household expenses while she was recovering. The outpouring of help was stunning and they asked themselves “if we can help one racer, why not organize our efforts to help all injured drag racers?” As these ladies traveled from one race to another with their husbands, they began to discuss the need for a more formal organization that would help to bridge the gap between what resources an injured racer might have and what he/she might need to get back to good health. These first pioneers included some very prominent names: Prudhomme, McCulloch, Garlits, Earwood-South, Oswald-Milla, Beadle, Glidden, Amato, Hedrich and many more.
In 1985, these first ladies of drag racing formed DRAW, or Drag Racing Association of Women, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Its goals are simple; to supply financial and emotional assistance to those injured in drag racing at any sanctioned track, regardless of affiliation. Through membership dues, fundraisers, raffles and other events, DRAW has raised over $1.6 million from 1985 through 2000. As DRAW grew in numbers and influence, they opened their doors to anyone, and now men as well as women lead DRAW into the 21st century. With more than 2000 members, in every state of the union, and province in Canada, DRAW has a mighty impact in helping families through the trauma of injury and death from trackside accidents. Each accident is reviewed individually by the Board of Directors. DRAW decided not to do individual fundraisers as that would be unfair to the lesser known racers, but this is offset by the fact that they do not have a “means testing” formula, meaning that even the more famous and better earning drivers can receive help. As Rosalee and Terry Noble explain, “many racers are self-employed, and though they appear to make a good living, when they are injured, their incomes stop, but their expenses don’t.” Those eligible for financial help include drivers and crew injured on the track or in the pits, at NHRA, IHRA or any other sanctioned drag strip. Area directors on the DRAW organization keep on the lookout for accidents and “spread the word” so that no one is missed. They not only give out financial assistance but help facilitate the NHRA/IHRA and track insurance benefits, write letters of cheer and visit injured drivers and crews at hospitals and in their homes. Besides medical bills, money is awarded for help in meeting mortgage payments, rent, food, utilities or other living expenses.
As I listened to the Nobles and to Judy Gotcher, DRAW’s membership secretary, I could sense the love and concern in their voices for the great work and service that DRAW has set out to accomplish. There is no paid job in DRAW. Everyone is a volunteer, and they not only give up their time to run this great endeavor, but their own money to travel great distances to attend all the various NHRA and most of the IHRA meets. Except for basic phone bills, paper and supplies, all the rest of DRAW’s income goes directly to help support injured drag racers and their families. I grilled Rosalee and Terry Noble at length on this issue at the 37th Annual NHRA Finals at Pomona, California, on November 8, 2001. You can be sure that any donation you make will not be wasted by organizational overhead. The Nobles are very open and honest about how DRAW works and provided whatever information was requested of them. You could sense the feeling that this wasn’t just a hobby for them, but a crusade, that the people behind DRAW have committed their bodies and souls to easing the pain, suffering and confusion of those injured in our sport
It is also important to see who give to DRAW, even though our interest is often distracted to where the money is spent. Who donates is often a good barometer to the health of a charitable organization. Besides the annual donations and membership dues of its members, DRAW receives support from groups large and small. NHRA and IHRA provide free space and utilities for DRAW’s booth at all of their racing venues and the Mickey Thompson Tire Company van transports the DRAW tent to the racing sites. DRAW puts on two major fundraisers on the NHRA circuit, the annual Auction and Barbecue at the Chicago racetrack in Joliet, Illinois, and the annual Auction, Memorabilia and Fashion Show in Dallas, Texas. An annual Golf Tournament is held in Gainesville, Florida. Local fundraisers are held at drag strips throughout the year at division events. IHRA holds an annual fundraiser to collect funds for DRAW. The All Harley Drag Racing Association also holds its annual fundraiser to help DRAW. Christmas cards, labels, t-shirts, prints, pins, decals, hats, cookbooks, sweaters and many other gifts can be ordered at the events or on-line at www.drawfasthelp.org, or by mail at DRAW, 4 Hance Drive, Charleston, Illinois, 61920, (fax)217-348-7844 or (phone)217-345-6537.
Perhaps one last story indicates the zeal and love that these dedicated men and women bring to this labor of love for their injured friends in drag racing. For many years Minerva Evans volunteered to make personal, hand made Teddy Bears to give to injured racers, to establish a bond of love that cannot be broken, while bones and tissues mend, traumas to body and souls heal, for the day when we are reunited again as a racing family.
Gone Racin’ is at www.oilstick.com