For Marty Vlasman, the thought of children with disabilities not having playgrounds to enjoy in Mitchell is unfathomable.
That’s why he chose to donate the proceeds from his annual Cruisin’ for a Cause car show and auction event on Saturday to the Kiwanis Club’s plan to build an inclusive, accessible playground along Lake Mitchell.
“It breaks me knowing some kids can’t play on a playground. I thought the Kiwanis Club’s project is an incredible one to get behind this year since it will bring a park for the kids who need it to play,” Vlasman said, as he handed out trophies to the top finishers of Saturday’s car show in front of Thirsty’s.
The features of the accessible playground include a rocking raft and see-saw, along with a musical activity area and swinging bench, which are all accessible for individuals with disabilities. To make the playground meet accessibility standards, a concrete paved path would stretch from the sidewalk into the playground, and the woodchip surface would allow wheelchair and other wheel transportation devices to navigate around the playground.
According to the designs, the playground would be constructed next to the existing swing set and play area that sits in the center of Kiwanis Woodlot Park, fostering a more inclusive environment in the area. The $64,000 inclusive playground is part of Mitchell’s Kiwanis Club’s 100-year celebration. While the club is already raising money to complete the project by 2022, Vlasman’s car show and auction will provide a nice boost for the construction of the playground.
Each year, Vlasman picks a local and area nonprofit organization or a community member facing health issues to donate proceeds from his annual car shows. However, this year, the accessible playground plan stood out as a “meaningful and impacting” community project that he wanted to help make a reality.
“Every kid needs a playground to play on. Playing outside with friends is so important for youth, as some of the best childhood memories are made out there,” Vlasman said. “We are going to purchase some of the playground equipment they need for that playground with the proceeds from our event.”
Saturday’s Cruisin’ for a Cause car show and auction marked the eighth annual event that takes place in August. The event raises upward of $7,000 to $10,000 with matching donations from other local organizations who have got behind Vlasman’s community-minded events.
While the car show — which includes a silent auction, dart tournaments, games and live music — draws big crowds each year, Vlasman hosts additional similar events in the community and around area towns with the same mission of supporting good causes and organizations.
In recent years, his car and motorcycle shows have helped bring over 30 beds to the Mitchell Area Safehouse and helped support a child receiving a critical kidney transplant, to name just a few of the good causes he’s supported.
“Every year we find the people and organizations who need the most help in whatever it is they are working on. We’ve helped a 3-year-old boy who needed money for a kidney transplant and helped the SafeHouse remodel their living room, bought them new mattresses,” Vlasman said.
Initially, Cruisin’ for a Cause was formed to help roughly a decade ago to help underprivileged families and individuals with living needs and raise prevention awareness about the flu and H1N1, also known as the swine flu, following Vlasman’s near death experience from the swine flu that he miraculously recovered from in 2014. As Vlasman’s organization has grown through the years, it’s morphed into helping a wide variety of good community causes.
Although Vlasman’s Cruisin’ for a Cause has evolved over the years, his mission remains the same: help those who need it the most and help the groups who share the same mission.
“That’s what this organization is all about,” he said. “I’m so proud of the community support that Cruisin’ for a Cause has had, and it shows we all want to make the community a better place by helping those who need it most.”