Race cars are really fast billboards for sponsors, but Racing to End Alzheimer’s is proving that race cars can also raise awareness for a crucial cause while honoring those we love. The No. 23 FastMD/Legistics/ExpoSystems/FEL Audi RS3 is a top competitor in the TCR class of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Series, but the car is also a moving tribute to those who have been affected by Alzheimer’s.
The Audi, which is co-driven by series veterans Nick Galante and James Vance, has a purple livery—the color of Alzheimer’s awareness—topped with the names of people affected by Alzheimer’s or dementia. Donors pledge $250 to have the name and hometown of their loved one added to the car so that by the end of the racing season, the car will be covered in names.
Racing to End Alzheimer’s founder Phil Frengs first got involved with sports car racing in a more traditional way. His company Legistics, a U.S.-based business specializing in practice support for major legal firms, has been sponsoring an IMSA race car for years. When Phil’s wife Mimi was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, though, he began to look at those logo-covered race cars in a different way.
“Mimi’s diagnosis made me think about a lot of things,” says Phil. “It seemed that to do nothing wasn’t an option, so, with racing as one of my passions, I felt that we could upset conventional thinking. A race car as an advertising vehicle could be the perfect way to make a statement about Alzheimer’s. It lets each one of us honor and remember a loved one affected by Alzheimer’s by putting their name and hometown on the car.”
Frengs founded Racing to End Alzheimer’s in 2017. In September of that year, the Legistics logos were removed from the Porsche the company was sponsoring at the time, and the names of 77 Alzheimer’s victims were added in their place for the final two races of the season.
Each name represented a $250 donation. Racing to End Alzheimer’s split the donations between UCLA’s Cognitive Health Clinic and the Nantz National Alzheimer Center at Houston Methodist Hospital. Because Legistics matched the donations, the total of the grant was $43,500.
For the 2018 season, Racing to End Alzheimer’s increased the number of names on the car to 126 and YouRulz stepped up as an additional matching donor. The car went on to win the Street Tuner championship while covered in names, and Racing to End Alzheimer’s was proud to have a grant that exceeded $100,000. Funds were split again between UCLA Cognitive Health Clinic, where families of Alzheimer’s victims receive social and psychological support, and Nantz National Alzheimer Center at Houston Methodist Hospital, who do cutting edge research in the field.
This season, instead of unveiling all the names for the final two races, a name goes on the car as soon as the donation is made. “We make a difference a little at a time,” says Frengs. “Giving people the opportunity to express their love and to honor their spouse, their in-law, maybe their grandfather…For each participant, it’s a chance to make a small but meaningful contribution towards helping those impacted by Alzheimer’s. And by collaborating, matching partners are helping contribute needed funds to the herculean efforts our funding partners are making in the face of this ever-challenging brain disease. Using motorsports this way was my different take on what to do. I hope you’ll join me.”
This post originally appeared on Fourtitude.com.