Smart Futures Dinner & Auction

Smart Futures Dinner & Auction

A special thank you to everyone that made our event a success. We can't wait for the 2017 dinner! 

Race car drivers often have to make last-minute adjustments, and Indianapolis 500 champions Arie Luyendyk and Tony Kanaan did just that Thursday to avoid disappointing area residents.

Luyendyk flew to Indianapolis from his Phoenix home to fill in for Tony Kanaan as a guest speaker at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Richmond's annual Smart Futures dinner Thursday night at Tiernan Center.

Kanaan learned late Monday night he would have to test a car for his sponsor in St. Louis. On Tuesday, Kanaan announced he'll be back with NTT DATA for his fourth season with Chip Ganassi Racing Teams in 2017.

Thursday's dinner honored Mike Kitchel, a Centerville High School and Earlham College graduate who now is the communications director of IndyCar.

Once Kitchel learned Kanaan couldn't attend, as he noted it's hard to say no to Chip Ganassi, he used his IndyCar connections to request Luyendyk's attendance. He reached out to Luyendyk and within two minutes, he had a positive response.

However, Kanaan was able to get a flight on his teammate's plane and arrived before the dinner ended, thanks to some help from police escorts. Kanaan received a ride in a police car all the way from the Indianapolis Regional Airport in Mount Comfort.

"Actually, I had a blast," Kanaan told the crowd about his ride to Tiernan Center, prompting laughter.

Guests were pleased to see both drivers.

"It proves what a class act he is," Jeff Gore said about Kanaan's efforts to get to Richmond. "And Arie Luyendyk flying in from Phoenix at the last minute - they're true gentlemen, both of them."

Jeff and Amy Gore bought one of Kanaan's racing suits in an auction to benefit the club before Kanaan arrived. The Gores are racing fans, but had never been to the dinner before and didn't know they would bid on a souvenir. Jeff said he now knows what Amy wants for Christmas - a display case for Kanaan's suit - so that will make his shopping easier.

"It couldn't have happened any better," said Boys & Girls Clubs board member Garry Kleer about Kanaan's arrival. "He's really personable - he's a lot like you see on TV."

"I'm thrilled to meet Arie Luyendyk," said John Meredith, whose company, SaverSystems, sponsored a table at the dinner. "He's certainly an Indianapolis legend. He's gracious, very kind, approachable and very giving. It's nice to have him with us for such a great cause."

Luyendyk now works as a racing steward, which is like a referee. Since the season is over, he said he had time to travel and show his support for the local club. Luyendyk said he's worked with the Boys & Girls Clubs in Phoenix and Chicago.

"It's a duty for the community to participate," Luyendyk said. "So many children are without good prospects, unfortunately."

Kitchel said he was glad to be able to support the Boys & Girls Clubs through the dinner.

"I had a big support system, but a lot of kids don't have that," Kitchel said. "It's where the club is able to step up and change lives."

Kitchel said he was humbled to be part of the event and receive the same honor that sports columnist Mike Lopresti received two years ago. He grew up admiring Lopresti and said he still would like to be Lopresti.

"The phrase I've used is it's flattering to the point of being a little embarrassing," Kitchel said of the honor and knowing his mother, RHS Principal Rae Woolpy, encouraged folks to buy tickets to seats for the event.

RHS Athletic Director Frank Carr said attending the dinner was special for him. He was Kitchel's football coach at Earlham and said some students are unforgettable.

"Mike is one of those guys," Carr said. "From a player standpoint, he wasn't the most talented player, but he was a talented player. He had the biggest heart, was the best teammate and had a great attitude. It's no surprise to me that he's gone on to do these wonderful things."

Kitchel said the best decision he ever made was going to Earlham. "I fell in love with learning and academics for the first time and it really changed my life."

Club officials expressed gratitude to Kitchel for lining up the speakers and donations of items for the auction, including some autographed items sent by Kanaan.

One of the items up for bid was a helmet signed by all 33 drivers from the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. Twelve of those helmets were made, and all the others went to celebrities such as Lady Gaga. The helmet auctioned Thursday was the only one available to the public. It sold for $10,000.

The Boys & Girls Club serves several hundred youth after school at three locations in Richmond (the Jeffers Unit on South L Street, Central United Methodist Church and Fairview Elementary School) and one at Hagerstown Elementary. Children pay $15 per school year, which includes their activities, snacks and transportation to the club.

Making the clubs so affordable for children means the Smart Futures dinner and other fundraising efforts are crucial to the club's operations.

The clubs' average daily attendance rose to 700 children in September.

Racing fans were able to submit questions for Luyendyk and fellow speaker Fox Sports racing reporter Vince Welch to answer after the meal.

More about our guests:

Mike Kitchel was named IndyCar Communications director in 2014 after spending more than a decade in the same role with championship-winning IndyCar Series team Panther Racing. Kitchel oversees all media relations efforts for the IndyCar Series, which includes the development and execution of the corporate communications strategy, organization of media events, stunts and event promotions as well as overseeing crisis communications and serving as the series spokesman. During his three seasons with IndyCar the series has experienced annual growth in television ratings, attendance, earned media and produced the first-ever sellout of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 – the largest single-day sporting event in the world.

During his 10 seasons at Panther Racing Kitchel oversaw the team’s public relations, marketing, digital, creative and licensing programs. He led the team’s communication and marketing platforms with corporate partners including the National Guard, Pennzoil, Panasonic, Menards and several other recognized brands. Additionally, he directed publicity and managed the daily schedules of the team’s INDYCAR drivers, which included Indianapolis 500 winners Dan Wheldon, Buddy Rice and Buddy Lazier – in addition to Ryan Briscoe, JR Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter, Vitor Meira, John Andretti and many others. 

Kitchel grew up in Centerville, Ind. and graduated from Earlham College where he earned a B.A. in English Literature and was the recipient of the department’s Warren Staebler Award, given annually to one graduating senior who “combines a love of literature and the arts with high intellectual standards and a concern for the welfare of others.” Kitchel was an accomplished football player in high school and college, which included being named All-Conference quarterback at Centerville High School and offensive MVP and team captain during his four seasons at Earlham.

Vince Welch is a veteran racing broadcaster and calls play-by-play for FOX NASCAR’s coverage of the NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES, in addition to his duties as a pit reporter for the NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES and NASCAR XFINITY SERIES. Welch joined FOX NASCAR in 2015 as a NASCAR XFINITY SERIES and NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES pit reporter and also served as play-by-play announcer for select Truck Series races. He previously worked for the FOX Sports family as a pit reporter for Indy Racing League telecasts on FOX Sports Net. Welch also served in the same capacity for ESPN and ABC in the NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES and NASCAR XFINITY SERIES beginning in 2008, and the IndyCar Series beginning in 2009 for the networks.

The Indiana native covered the IndyCar Series on television or radio from its inception in 1996 through the conclusion of the 2014 season. In addition, Welch calls play-by-play for select FOX College Basketball games in 2015 and has covered the sidelines for ESPN’s college football coverage. Welch, a broadcasting veteran of more than 25 years, formerly served as the sports director for WIBC Radio in Indianapolis. He embarked on his professional broadcasting career in 1986 at a Richmond, Ind., radio station, seguing to television in 1990 at WISH-TV, the CBS affiliate in Indianapolis, as a sports anchor/reporter. After more than five years at WISH-TV, Welch joined WNDY-TV, an independent station focusing on live sports coverage in Indianapolis. He served as play-by-play announcer for football, basketball, baseball and tennis, earning a regional Emmy Award in 1992 for sports programming. In 1999, he moved to WIBC, where he broke one of the state’s biggest sports stories ever -- the 2000 firing of Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight.

Welch’s live motor sports broadcasting career began in 1996 as pit reporter and turn announcer for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network for its coverage of the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400, in addition to Indy Racing League races from other venues. He joined the motor sports television broadcasting world in 1999 as pit reporter for Indy Racing League telecasts on FOX Sports Net and TNN. When the series returned to ESPN in late 1999, Welch continued in the same capacity with the network. Welch was the longtime play-by-play voice for the Ball State University Sports Network, which broadcasts BSU basketball throughout the Midwest, through the conclusion of the 2014 season. A native of Indianapolis, Welch graduated from Ball State University with a degree in Telecommunications. He resides in Carmel, Ind., with his wife and three children.

Antoine Rizkallah Kanaan Filho, commonly known as Tony Kanaan (born December 31, 1974) is a Brazilian race car driver. Kanaan won the 2013 Indianapolis 500 and the 2004 IndyCar Series Championship. His Indycar Series championship came while driving Andretti Green Racing’s 7-Eleven sponsored car, winning three times in his Honda-powered Dallara. That season he completed 3,305 laps, making him the first IndyCar Series driver to complete every possible lap in a season, record that he still holds to this day. Kanaan is also the only driver to lead the Indianapolis 500 in each of his first seven starts. TK won the Indy 500 in 2013 on his 12th attempt. Tony has a total of 17 IndyCar race victories and 15 poles to his account. Tony started his IndyCar career racing for Tasman Motorsports, and also drove for Forsythe, Mo Nunn Racing and Andretti Autosport. Kanaan currently drives the No. 10 Chip Ganassi entry.

Career Highlights: 

2015 Won first Rolex 24 At Daytona

2014 Finished seventh in the IndyCar Series Driver Championship with one win

2013 Indianapolis 500 winner

2011 Finished 5th in the IndyCar Series Driver Championship with one pole

2010 Finished 6th in the IndyCar Series Driver Championship with one win

2009 Finished 6th in the IndyCar Series Driver Championship with five top-five and 10 top-ten finishes

2008 Finished 3rd in the IndyCar Series Driver Championship with one win and two poles 

2007 12 Hours of Sebring LMP2 Class Winner 

2006 Finished sixth in the IndyCar Series driver championship standings with one win and seven top-five finishes 

2005 IndyCar Series Driver Championship Runnerup with two wins and qualifying for the pole position at the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500

2004 IndyCar Series Driver Champion with three wins and one pole 

2003 Finished 4th in the IndyCar Series driver championship standings, claiming his first IZOD IndyCar Series victory (Phoenix) and won three poles

2002 Finished 12th in the CART Series driver championship standings with two poles. He also made his first IndyCar Series start at the Indianapolis 500 where he qualified 5th, finished 28th, and led 23 laps 

2001 Finished 9th in the CART Series driver championship standings with one pole and 11 top-ten finishes

2000 Finished 19th in the CART Series driver championship standings earning six top-ten finishes 

1999 Finished 11th in the CART Series driver championship standings earning his first career victory (Michigan Speedway) and first career pole (Long Beach)

1998 Finished 9th in the CART Series driver championship standings in his rookie season and captured the Jim Trueman Rookie of the Year award

Past award recipients and keynote speakers who have helped raise funds and highlight the Boys & Girls Clubs of Wayne County’s diverse program focus areas are as follows:

2016- Mike Kitchel

2015- Ron McDaniel

2014 - Del Harris 

2013 - Mike Lopresti

2012 - Lisa Shepherd Stidham

2011- Tim Coffey

2010- Matt Painter

2009- Terri Logan & India Cruse-Griffin

2008- Michael Holthouse

2007- Dominic James

2006- Jamar, Curtis & Billy Wright

2005- Andy Brown

2004- Bo VanPelt

2003- Reggie Wayne & Jerry Yeagley

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