A thunderous start to Highway to Help Heroes benefit

Yes, that was a NASCAR you saw on I-95

A NASCAR race car going from St. Johns County to Cowford Chophouse in downtown Jax just ended.

What a fun and fulfilling day as we kicked off Sissine’s Highway to Help Heroes with a thunderous start!

A Stewart-Haas race car packing more than 700 horsepower, driven by Gary “Bear” Giessman, was driven north along I-95 with a police escort and a helicopter overhead. The 30-mile trip started at Ring Power Corp and ended in downtown Jacksonville at Cowford Chophouse.

The benefit will build to a drive and party Feb. 6. The event benefits the FOP Foundation Fallen Officers Welfare Relief Fund and K9s For Warriors. Each car in the upcoming drive will have a veteran or wounded officer as a passenger.

Highway to Help Heroes has partnered with K9 for Warriors, the nation’s largest provider of service dogs to military veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury and/or Military Sexual Trauma. K9s' program is unique, comprehensive, and proven thanks to research by Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine.

They provide warriors with a service canine, equipment, training, certification, seminars, legal instruction, vet care, housing, home-cooked meals, unconditional love and listening and a lifetime of wrap-around services.

“We don’t just give each of our warriors a service dog, we give them the K9s Family," said CEO Rory Diamond, who is also a Jacksonville City Councilman.

Motorcycle teams from St. Johns and Duval County Sheriff’s Offices escorted the logoed race car through the traffic along I-95 to the Cowford Chophouse.

Fraternal Order of Police Foundation chairman Bobby Deal said this is a great opportunity to help our fallen officers. Deal added the FOP has spent more than $100,000 over the last few years on officers who have been injured in the line of duty.

The police union’s fund supports the families and officers killed and injured in the line of duty, and those suffering from post-traumatic stress.

The drive, sponsored by Sissine’s Office System and the SAC Collective and in partnership with Ring Power, hopes to raise $800,000 this year. Greg Leb, event founder and organizer, said each driver will have a wounded officer or veteran as a co-pilot for the charity, police-escorted drive. The drive will cost $1,000 per driver and end with a brunch and a party at the Chophouse.

Look for more Highway to Help Heroes stories from the event organizer, FOP and K9s For Warriors as the event date nears.

About the Author:

Richard Nunn is the Weather Authority Chief Meteorologist