Spring Dell Center partnered with Racing For A Cure on Friday for a fundraising event to raise money for families with special needs.

Residents and staff from the center gathered at the organization’s Hooks and Hangers location in Charlotte Hall to enjoy free ice cream, crafts and pictures in front of two race cars. Spring Dell Executive Director Donna Retzlaff said more than 80 people came by to partake in the festivities and donate to the cause.

Racing For A Cure is a Florida-based nonprofit that assists organizations like Spring Dell with fundraising and spreading awareness for certain causes. The group generates donations through selling stars, which are placed on the race car before it hits the track during the weekend.

President and CEO Melvin Cairns created the charity following the success of a program at the Star Center School For Autism in Melbourne, Fla., attended by his son. Parents joined forces with Woodley Motorsports to raise $30,000 in two years for the center, and Cairns developed the program into a recognized 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

“We noticed a lot of these groups spent so much time trying to fundraise that it took away from their programs,” Cairns said. “What we wanna do is try to do some of that fundraising for them. So we raise money using the race cars. We sell stars, you put your name on them, put them on the race car, and all that money goes out to help places like Spring Dell.”

Cairns travels to locations along the East Coast for fundraisers, displaying a pair of race cars to attract the attention of potential donors. The black, red and yellow No. 90 car is a since-retired NASCAR Cup vehicle, and the black and blue stock car is driven by Billy Tucker as part of the fundraiser. The ride is emblazoned with the Racing For A Cure logo across the hood and is used to display the star donation stickers. Cairns said the group has raised around $5,000 so far this year.

Tucker competed in the Limited Late Model race at the Potomac Speedway in Budds Creek on Saturday, finishing ninth out of 20 drivers. He handed out autographed pictures of the car at Friday’s event and said he likes spending time with the children because he was just like them as a kid, excited to see a race car up close. Tucker added that his involvement helps his brand as well as that of the organization.

“It’s good advertisement for what I love to do, which is racing,” Tucker said. “And it draws attention for a great cause, like what we’re doing with autism. It helps draw attention to both causes.”

Both Cairns and Tucker are from St. Mary’s County and were hooked up with Spring Dell through a mutual friend with like-minded pursuits. Edward Bonifant is the CEO of HWP Insurance, and his company has worked closely with the center and similar groups. Bonifant and Cairns knew each other growing up, eventually using Facebook to facilitate the collaboration between Racing For A Cure and Spring Dell.

“It was pretty easy, I just connected Melvin with the people at Spring Dell and next thing you know, they had stuff all worked out,” Bonifant said.

HWP Insurance made a donation to the center at the fundraiser and were responsible for the ice cream truck. Bonifant spent most of the event with his cousin, a Spring Dell resident, a relationship that makes the center especially important to him.

“They do just fabulous work, and they always need help,” Bonifant said.

Twitter: @CharlieIndyNews

Twitter: @CharlieIndyNews