Charity racers in the pink

By Liz Dobson

Motor firms and car lovers are taking to the road for a good cause, writes Liz Dobson.

Peugeot GM Grant Smith with one of the vehicles the company provides for Cure Kids. Photo / Supplied
Peugeot GM Grant Smith with one of the vehicles the company provides for Cure Kids. Photo / Supplied

Being dressed in pink is optional. Driving in high heels isn't compulsory and you don't even have to be a woman. All you need on Sunday, October 16 for the Pink Heels Charity Car Cruise is to drive a vehicle of some sort.

The annual event was started in 2008 by car enthusiasts Jenna Litchfield and Amanda Bridges and has raised more than $1000 in gold coins, with $400 raised last year alone.

And each year the drive is attracting more participants and a larger variety of vehicles - from modified imports to hot rods, motorbikes, and even just your average car.

"Based on previous years' efforts, we [were] expecting over 40 cars last year, but we got 60 and could not find enough carparks at our final location," says Litchfield.

The 26-year-old Aucklander also created a website in 2008 called wheelsandheels.co.nz to not only attract more females into motorsports, but to "educate young women drivers and get them away from street races and on to race tracks".

The cruise became a natural spin-off for the website.

"We wanted to run an event in the car scene that was both a legal, safe event and something that would raise money for a charity close to our hearts. Being women in the car and motorsport industry, the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation seemed the most appropriate," explains Jenna.

"And that's where the Pink Heels name came from, as women love pink and they love heels!"

The cruise starts at Albany, Auckland and the participants drive a scenic route to a destination (yet to be decided) where a prize-giving is held for people who actually decide to wear pink (or even yellow). And this year, the event is also raising funds for the Cancer Society to include the men who support the charity cruise.

One man who is heavily involved in charities is Mazda New Zealand's managing director, Andrew Clearwater. Clearwater is also chairman of the Mazda Foundation, an organisation that was established in 2005 to provide charitable assistance for specific community needs.

"Since its inception, the foundation has paid out over $1.1 million to a variety of community causes and to assist individuals over a broad range of activity," says Clearwater.

Over the past six years, more than 250 individuals and "grassroots" organisations have been given a helping hand by the foundation, which focuses on assisting those groups that struggle to attract funding from traditional sources.

Some organisations which have received funding this year include Angelslight Breakfast Club in South Auckland, which provides food for schoolchildren; and the Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson's Society of Canterbury.

"The foundation is administered using Mazda New Zealand resources and is essentially self-funded through a contribution from Mazda and Mazda dealers from every new Mazda vehicle sold, although occasionally other dedicated fundraising events are held," says Clearwater.

"As a very successful business operation in New Zealand, Mazda believes it has a responsibility to give back to the community and act as a good corporate citizen through providing grants for environmental, educational, skills development, cultural and community projects.

"I guess the rub-off is that the wider community becomes more aware of Mazda and hopefully sees us in a different light, and we have also had a number of customers comment that they are buying one of our cars because we are supporting a charitable concern that is of interest to them."

Another car company involved in giving a helping hand is Peugeot New Zealand. Since last year, it has been the official vehicle supplier to Cure Kids.

Previously Child Health Research Foundation, Cure Kids was founded by Rotary and established more than 30 years ago to address the lack of research into the life-threatening childhood diseases and conditions affecting New Zealand children and their families.

Peugeot provides three new vehicles to the Cure Kids team: a 4007 SUV, a 308 hatch, and the 3008 Crossover, which has been driven by Cure Kids CEO Vicki Lee.

"The bonus of driving the Crossover is the large boot - we are able to put wheelchairs in the back as the back seats fold down," says Lee, who often escorts the charity's ambassadors - the kids who live with a life-threatening illness.

"We feel very privileged to be associated with an amazing charity like Cure Kids," says Grant Smith, Peugeot New Zealand's general manager.

Tea and clean car

A morning-tea fundraiser for the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation is being held on Saturday, October 15 at vehicle cleaning products company Meguiar's headquarters in East Tamaki, Auckland. For a $10 donation, you get a clean car and a goodie bag.

- NZ Herald

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