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Race car drivers join 300 at inaugural Grand Prix ball

The event held at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort will benefit three bay area charities.


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 21, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Grand Prix Foundation of St. Petersburg held its inaugural fundraising gala Thursday evening in the Palm Court Ballroom at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort.

About 300 people were on the guest list for the black-tie event.

Linda Cassell, who co-chaired the Grand Prix Drivers' and Ambassadors' Ball with her husband, Jim, said attendance was superb for a first-time benefit.

Proceeds will go to three bay area charities: the Salvation Army, the Bayfront Health Foundation and the National Conference for Community and Justice.

Gary Elliott, one of the Salvation Army representatives at the gala, said the money is welcome, especially after lean winter holiday receipts.

Financial challenges have caused cutbacks at numerous area nonprofits, including the Salvation Army.

The Grand Prix Foundation money will be donated to the Salvation Army's job merit program, which helps the needy find work and offers support services to help clients keep their jobs.

At Bayfront Medical Center, the contributions will go toward expansion of the emergency department.

The third recipient is conference's Anytown program, which encourages diverse groups of youngsters to create communities based on respect and understanding.

Chris Pook, president and chief executive officer of Championship Auto Racing Teams, said the organization encourages charitable foundations in the cities where its events take place.

The races "do impact cities both positively and negatively," he said.

"When you take out, you've got to give back."

The fundraisers also allow members of the community who may know little about racing to mix with those who do and "to build a partnership with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and the community," he said.

Thursday's ball drew numerous business and community leaders along with CART representatives and drivers.

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