Marilyn Piticco (left), her daughter Township Councillor Michelle Sparrow, and Sparrow’s red Mustang (Tyrone) will be at Cruise-In in Aldergrove on Saturday, representing the Hope After Stroke group. (Roxanne Hooper/Langley Advance)

Car show key to future for Langley charities

Langley Good Times Cruise-In is about more than just cars, it’s about giving back to the community.

Marilyn Piticco is pleading with car collectors and car enthusiasts alike to attend this Saturday’s Langley Good Times Cruise-In in Aldergrove.

There are charities in this community, like hers, that depend this charity car show to survive. And, she added, the survival of the “legendary” car show depends on car registrations, as well as general attendance.

Piticco runs two Hope After Stroke groups out of Walnut Grove Community Centre, and has received more than $100,000 in donations from the Cruise-In during the past 10-plus years.

“I really hope the car community realizes the benefit of this event, and embraces and supports the change,” she said of this year’s move from downtown Langley to Aldergrove.

“Because, it is every car and every dollar that counts… Everybody who spends money there that day helps the causes.”

The Cruise-In is a volunteer-driven registered non-profit organization that turns all proceeds from each year’s show back to the community.

Among the recipients are five main charities of choice: Piticco’s Langley Community Support Group, Valley Therapeutic Equestrian Association, Langley Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, the Boys & Girls Club of Langley, and Legacy Water Search and Recovery.

Other organizations that have received money from Cruise-In include KPU Foundation, Douglas Park Community School Foundation, St. John Ambulance, and TWU Spartan Foundation. Plus, as president Wayne Patterson pointed out, a number of service groups run concessions during the car show that raise money directly for their organizations.

“These are all charities that will suffer. My programs will definitely suffer,” Piticco said, anxious to put a personal face to what it this car show means to Langley.

Last year, the show raised $46,200 for local charities. And in the show’s 20-year history (only missing 2010, when the show was cancelled) they’ve contributed in excess of $1.3 million to Langley non-profits.

“We’re proud of the fact that we’re all volunteers and that all of our net proceeds go to local charities,” Patterson said.

The money given to Hope After Stroke group have been “huge” for Piticco, who said the grants from Cruise-In account for about a third of her annual budget.

“It has allowed me to focus on the programs and the stroke survivors,” rather than worrying about fundraising,” she added, noting that her program offers communications, occupational therapy, exercise, and music therapy to registered participants. She also offers community outreach and resources.

If participation in the car show drops, she fears the Cruise-In grants could decline. While it wouldn’t force her to close her program, Piticco insists she’d have to dial back and become more of a support group rather than a therapy-based program,which she feels is missing the point.

“It would definitely keep me up at nights,” she said, noting she’s always in tears each December when the Cruise-In board personally delivers a cheque to her group.

Piticco started a stroke group in Langley 21 years ago this October, after her own father suffered a stroke, couldn’t speak, and found himself isolated and unable to find the resources needed. Piticco soon learned there were many others, just like her father, in need of support and assistance.

Piticco is planning to once again be on-hand for this year’s car show, happy to volunteer and staff one of the many barricades and to also offer up information to the public about her group and its efforts.

She’ll be there with her daughter Michelle Sparrow, a Township councillor and volunteer with the Hope After Stroke groups. And ‘the girls’ are bringing along Tyrone, Sparrow’s 1966 red hardtop Mustang – hoping he’ll draw more attention to their information tent.

While Piticco acknowledged that some people don’t like that the show was moved to Aldergerove, she said “sometimes change can be awesome.”

Anxious to see the silver lining, Piticco hopes Aldergrove can offer a lot more opportunities to grow the one-day charity car show with more display space and parking than ever.

This car show, and all that it does for Langley, has to be realized, echoed Sparrow.

Not only does Sparrow believe the new location for Cruise-In will put Aldergrove on the map, but she said it will bolster the economy for local businesses, and ensure that several charities can keep doing all they do to help people in this community.

“That’s a huge ripple effect,” Sparrow said. “It’s a huge win all the way around.”

“Please come out and continue supporting it in a huge way,…We have charities depending on it…” Piticco reiterated.

“Look for us near the In-N-Out Burger” on 272nd Street (in front of the Salvation Army thrift store), Piticco said, grateful for the opportunity to continue being part of the show.