Classic Car Group for Children
Cruising for a cause: Club raises money for children
By Crystal Schelle and photos by Turner Photography Studio
If it’s a Saturday night, Larry Sulser can be found sitting in a banana yellow delivery van blaring ‘50s and ‘60s music while in the back parking lot of JCPenney’s at the Valley Mall.
He’s not alone, though, as the entire back lot looks like a scene from “American Graffiti.” From end to end there is a collection of Model A’s to classic muscle cars and even some newer models, often with their hoods up waiting for fellow gearheads and car enthusiasts to take a gander and ask questions. The Classic Car Group for Children Inc. meets at the parking lot from April to October from 5 to 8 p.m. to show off their rides, swap some stories and make friends.
For decades, 71-year-old Sulser of Sharpsburg and his buddies have been showing off their polished vintage cars — all while raising money for children.
“We were first called the Glow Club because we used to store our cars out at the old Central Chemical plant. We were out someplace one time at night and someone said ‘it’s getting dark soon, we’re going to need some lights.’ We said, ‘You don’t have to worry about that, our cars will glow at night,’’ and that’s how we got the name,” Sulser said with a laugh.
But as they decided to become a more professional organization, Sulser said they decided to change their name but still have a nod to Central Chemical. So they did that with initials. Sulser credits his wife for coming up with the name Classic Car Group for Children Inc.
The group was officially founded 34 years ago and met at McDonald’s on the corner of Halfway and Massey boulevards.
“We were just growing,” he said while music blared from his truck. “We went from 14 cars to in just three months later we had about 25 cars.”
Their first fundraiser was for the Ronald McDonald House and saw more than 100 cars. As the cruise-ins attracted more drivers, they outgrew that spot and drifted into the grassy area of the parking lot next door where Roy Roger’s now stands. Eventually, the group needed an even bigger space to host the cars and about 20 years ago moved to the JCPenney’s lot.
Today, he said, on average 200 to 300 cars attend the cruise-ins and drivers are from the Tri-State area. For opening night on April 30, Sulser said they had more than 400 cars show up. To keep it family-friendly, the group doesn’t permit alcohol and only service dogs are allowed.
From the beginning, Sulser said, the focus was to raise money for charity specifically for children. The group charges $4 for car entries and accepts donations at the door for walk-ins.
The first nonprofit they donated to was Dream Come True and raised about $60,000. After several years, they decided to connect with Ali Ghan Shriners in Cumberland whose mission is to help sick children. Sulser said they raised funds that went to purchasing two new vans for Shriner’s Hospital. Last year they started raising money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and were able to gift them a $6,000 check. They also give to local charities such as Children in Need and Girls Inc.
Sulser said what he loves about the group is that “we help somebody.”
Most of those who display their cars can be found camped out near their mechanical beauties. Sam Bowers, 70, of Williamsport was beside his 1934 Model A, He was joined by buddies with similar cars.
When Bowers said he first came to the cruise-ins about 20 years ago, he had a Corvette. He said he liked coming because of the muscle cars and hot rods.
“And everybody’s a car person who comes out,” he said.
Bowers also liked that his money went to helping kids. “It makes me feel good that the money is going to the children,” he said.
One of his Model A pals sitting beside him was Wesley Truax, 32, of Falling Waters, W.Va., he brought his 1930 Model A Ford. He’s been coming out for 10 years. His first show car was a 1939 GMC pickup.
Truax said he’s usually out every Saturday, “just hanging out with my pals in the parking lot.”
They were joined by Raymond Holton, 78, of Hagerstown, a distant relative of Truax. Holton also has a 1930 Model A. He used to show a 1931 Model A.
“I think that’s why the three of us are so close because we have the same type of car,” he said.
Holton said he’s been coming to the cruise-in for about 20 years. “I like the social part of it along with the love of cars,” he said. “We don’t see each other through the week, but we can always count on seeing each other Saturday. And Sam and I will sometimes bring our significant others.”
Roger Douglas, 70, of Hagerstown has been involved with the club for years through also being a member of Shriner’s. He met Sulser at a Waynesboro event years ago. He’s been showing off a 1965 Barracuda that he had restored. He said being involved in another group that gives back to children is “rewarding.”
Sitting near his 1967 Chevelle was Jerry Reid, 74, of Hagerstown who has been with the group since the beginning. Back then, he showed off his ‘55 Chevrolet.
Every Saturday, Reid can be found at the show. He said he keeps coming back because of “the music, the camaraderie and friends — and just having a good time.”
His wife, Donna, has joined him usually every week as well.
“I like being with my husband and the old cars,” she said, sporting Chevy emblem earrings, noting she runs into other wives who come with their hubbies.
Josh Barnhart of Hagerstown sat with his 1950 Ford. He’s been coming out since 2001 when he was showing off his ‘66 Mustang. His dad, Tim, also joins him.
“It’s nice to know that what we’re putting into it will go toward kids,” Josh Barnhart said.
For Davey Cauffman, 69, and his son Dee, 38, both of Boonsboro, coming to the cruise-in allows them to have some father-son bonding time. Davey has a ‘67 Corvette. He’s been coming nearly every Saturday since the beginning and started bringing Dee with him when he was 10 years old. Dee now has a ‘55 Chevy he shows.
The Cauffmans said they have a mutual love of cars and this was just another way to enjoy more car activities.
“I love walking around looking at the cars,” Davey said looking over the sea of hubcaps. “They’re just a great group of people.”
Find Classic Car Group for Children Inc. on Facebook for more information.