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December 26, 2013

'A Spark of Hope'

Local charity with racing ties raises money for cancer

BROWNSBURG — The Andrea Pedregon Charity Foundation “A Spark of Hope” (APCF) recently donated $50,000 to the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center for colon and prostate cancer research.

This latest donation marks $140,000 raised for cancer research since the foundation started in 2010.

Pedregon, who is a Brownsburg resident and has been around racing her entire life, uses the sport to raise money for her foundation.

“My dad raced way back in the ‘70s and then he, kind of, semi-retired from it and got back in it in the ‘90s,” Pedregon said. “That’s when I met my husband (Tony Pedregon, two time National Hot Rod Association champion). We went on to start our own funny car team after he raced for John Force for eight years.”

Pedregon’s office is in her husband’s racing headquarters in Brownsburg at 462 Southpoint Circle, and she says the town is perfect for the family.

“We moved here five years ago,” she said. “My husband is from California and I grew up north of Detroit, up in Michigan … It’s a great place for us to raise our kids. I was nervous raising them in California, being a Michigan girl. So this is a good compromise. I love Brownsburg. Moving here, I didn’t know much about the surrounding cities, but now that I’ve actually lived here and know about the surrounding cities, this would be my No. 1. I love the schools, I love the community, and I love the little town. To me, it’s picture perfect to raise my family in and we can anchor our race team here too. That works nice.”

But while her husband had found his passion, she said she was still searching for her own.

“We went out on our own (with their race team) and although passion for him is racing, for me it’s always been philanthropy and charity work,” she said. “I did it in college and it was kind of something I really enjoyed doing. I was fortunate enough to utilize the racing platform to do different fundraising events. That’s kind of how I got started in it.”

That’s when for her, race venues turned into opportunities to raise money. She started with small events for well-known non-profits like Locks of Love and The Smile Train, but then decided it was time to start her own.

“… I realized I needed to start a foundation,” she said. “It was something I knew I’d continue doing for as long as we were racing and since I had such a great response from the fans and other teams, I felt it would support doing something once or twice annually. I started the foundation in 2010.”

To raise money, Pedregon, said she does auctions and makes publications for the fans. She added that 100 percent of her proceeds are donated.

“Most of the fundraising is done through live or silent auctions — usually trackside,” Pedregon said. “Then also … I’ve started doing calendars that feature wives of the drivers with the drivers or separate, and then families of racing. Then the most recent project was a yearbook, which was a full season of racers at the track and home away from the track. It kind of gave a variety for the fans to see what they do when they’re not racing.”

Pedregon said her foundation has always donated to the IU Simon Cancer Center, but each year the donation is in honor of someone in her life.

“The reason I focused toward cancer is I had a childhood friend who was diagnosed with melanoma and she passed within two years of her diagnosis, so that’s what kind of got the ball rolling on why I donated to cancer,” she said. “Once I researched and found out that IU Simon Cancer Center had such an awesome (reputation) — I mean people come from out of the country and all over the country here just to get treatment — I thought I would do that in her memory.”

She said the next year, she was inspired to donate to children’s cancer.

“I think it’s an interesting way that I come across the next project, because it’s not that I really plan or pick what one,” Pedregon said. “It’s usually someone that has directly affected us. Like my son had a friend in kindergarten and he had brain tumors and he was given a very short expectancy. That was two years ago and now he is actually scan-free and was a patient at IU Riley getting his treatment. So we donated that $50,000 to children’s cancer in honor of Henry, my son’s little friend.”

She said this latest donation came to her in a similar way.

“Then the prostate and colon (fundraising) came along, (because) we know of people that have had prostrate or colon cancer,” Pedregon said. “It seems like it’s becoming more (prevalent) … I don’t think the awareness is that much, but we’re starting to hear of more people having it.”

She added that raising awareness was also a big deal, given that a lot of the racing world is male.

“Being that the majority of the audience is male drivers, we thought it would be great to do something that (affects) men,” she said. “ … there’s always breast cancer awareness and that gets great coverage, but I didn’t really feel like prostate and colon cancer was that much talked about. We kind of hit the awareness on that for men to not hold off and take care of business if they know something’s wrong. It can be easily taken care of if they catch it early enough. That was the key we were trying to hit on.”

Pedregon said she does her fundraising without the benefit of a large staff.

“My right hand is my mom,” she said. “Luckily, I have a mom whose passion for charity runs as deep as mine. My mom, my sister, and a couple of close friends here (are my main team). It's kind of within the racing world that helps me (as well). Even some friends from IndyCar always come over and help me. Different motorsports pull together.”

Now, after wrapping up this year’s fundraising with the recent donation to the cancer center, she said she isn’t sure what form next year’s fundraising will take.

“I’m not sure yet, as we sit here, what my next project will be or what it’s going to go toward,” Pedregon said. “There will have to be something that I feel … I’m sure something will present itself and I’ll think ‘OK, that’s what’s supposed to be next.’”

For more information or to donate to the APCF, visit the website at www.apcf.tonypedregon.com. Also, find the APCF on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AndreaPedregonCharityFoundation.

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