Buzz Mitchell is passionate about the Shriners Hospital for Children and his enthusiasm has a way of infecting others.
On Saturday, July 14, Willamette Speedway held its annual Shriners Night. The popular event involves drivers, fans and sponsors in an effort to raise funds for the pediatric hospital.
"It's a good fundraiser. It's a quick way to raise a bunch of money for a good cause," said Mitchell. "It's one of those causes you hope you don't need to use, but you want it there in case you do."
The fundraising event includes a 50-50 auction, with the net proceeds going to Shriners. There was also an auction as several drivers donated panels from their cars.
But the highlight of the event was an awards celebration where drivers and sponsors who have joined Mitchell in supporting the hospital were honored.
Mitchell had beautiful trophies created specifically for the presentation and this year, the awards were given to Steve and Andrea Moore, Sandy and Cory Penfold, Joey Tanner, and Casey Vitale.
Driver Steve Emry has made two visits with Mitchell to visit the children at the Shiners hospital and they have made an enormous impression on him.
"Any chance I get I'm going to go. I love it," Emry said.
He was amazed at the difference the hospital can make in the children's lives. He recalled speaking with a child who grew four inches because severe spinal issues were being resolved. And he met other children who had been unable to walk but now had that ability thanks to prosthesis provided by the hospital.
"This is a life changing experience for these kids," Emry said.
There are now 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children in North America. Twenty of these are located in the United States, with one in Mexico City and another in Quebec, Canada. Shriners also recently opened a new hospital in Brazil.
The Portland Shriners hospital has 29 beds and serves children from throughout the Pacific Northwest, including Alaska as well as the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta.
The facility is served by 10 pediatric orthopaedic surgeons. In 2016, the Portland hospital saw 6,210 patients and delivered 2,738 specialized prosthetics and orthotics.
As always, there is no cost to the families.
"There's nothing that stops you from getting the best of the best care and that is just amazing to me," Emry said.
Mitchell has held Shriners night at Willamette Speedway for the past six years. Last year, the event grossed $12,500 in donations. These funds are contributed to the Shriners Hospital Transportation Fund, which helps children and their families get to the Portland hospital so they can receive the treatment they need.
"It's just been getting bigger every year," Mitchell said.
The fundraiser has grown considerably from its humble roots.
"It all started with me working out of the phone book with my cell phone contacting people I work with, people I know," Mitchell said.
Over the years, the list of sponsors has grown dramatically, with Trophy Motorsports, Willamette Speedway and the Schram Family helping to lead the way.
For the full list of event sponsors, see the online version of this story at lebanon-express.com.