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Back to the Future on the ELK Charity Challenge 2016


‘Back to the Future’ DeLorean on ELK Charity Challenge | Larry Edsall photos

The inaugural ELK Charity Challenge, staged last year in California, featured a genuine Batmobile. The second edition of the Everyone Loves Kids automotive adventure rally was staged last week, featured here yesterday, and took us from Dearborn, Michigan to Lake Placid, New York.

This time, the featured vehicle was the Back to the Future DeLorean. Stephen Wynne, who owns the car and the rights to put DeLorean back into production (which he plans to do after a new U.S. limited-production vehicle regulation goes into effect; there’s a counter on the New Delorean website that’s counting down the days) couldn’t make the trip, but he sent his car anyway and it was a hit at every stop along the route.

For at least three of our stops, “back to the future” was the theme of the trip for me. Indulge my trip back in time for a few minutes and I’ll explain why this ELK Charity Challenge trip was so emotional for me.

In the empty Olympic arena

Lake Placid — Back in 1980, I was a daily newspaper sports editor and the Olympics correspondent for a group of eight papers in Michigan. I was covering the Winter Games and was there when Eric Heiden swept around the skating oval, when Leonhard Stock won the men’s downhill and it was party time at the Austria House, when Rodina and Zaytsev of the Soviet Union dominated pairs skating, and, yes, when the U.S. hockey team beat the USSR in the Miracle on Ice, and again two nights later when it beat Finland for the gold medal.

Endeavor, glass sculpture by Lino Tagliapietra

I hadn’t been back to Lake Placid since the Games, but somehow arrived early enough to wander inside the Olympic ice arena with no one else present except a man who was cleaning hallway walls. Memories came flooding back.

Corning, New York — I hadn’t been to the Corning Glass Museum since 1956, and it was not a happy visit. My Mom, Dad and I had been on vacation in New England and were on our way home with time for only one more stop. I so wanted to go to the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Instead, we stopped at Corning.

It wasn’t until something like 50 years later that I finally got to Cooperstown, and not only did I enjoy the visit, but I got to see it through a grandson’s eyes as well. I guess I have to admit it was worth the wait.

And much to my surprise, I really enjoyed my second visit to the Corning museum, enjoyed it so much that after our official and all-too-quick tour and lunch, I delayed returning to the driving route so I could go back and see more of the amazing glass artwork.

Emily and me at Shriners

Shriners Hospitals — The ELK rally raises money for three causes — St. Jude’s research hospital, Texas EquuSearch and Shriners Hospital. This year we stopped at the Shriners Hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania. Again, emotions flowed.

You see, I was a Shriners’ patient, at their hospital near Chicago, and except for an alumni day when I was in my early 20s, I hadn’t been back.

But when I was about 2 years old, I was a resident patient for several months, and a few years later spent a year and a half with a leg brace and crutches, and was back for checkups every six months until I was headed to college. I can walk today because of Shriners Hospitals.

At the hospital in Erie, and again that night at a concert downtown, we met Emily Mellish, a current Shriners’ patient who is overcoming her ailments with wonderful medical care and an amazingly positive attitude.

I remember so many Shriners patients  who had similar attitudes. We received wonderful care, but also something else that in some ways was just as important — to never allow yourself to feel sorry for your situation because all you have to do is to look around to see someone with ailments much worse than yours. Handicap is not part of the vocabulary. I remember not liking crutches and my brace, but being glad that I had two legs and two arms.

I’ve always thought Shriners made it possible for me to walk. But I left the hospital with so much more than that, and so will Emily and the other Shriners kids.

Larry Sig
Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. I am so thankful that The Elk Charity Challenge is modeling itself after the Fireball Run, which Craig Corbell, competed in until 2014. With the vision and ideas he gained on his journey, he was able to copy this idea and give to more charities. It is so exciting to see that he is using the ideas, planning, celebrities, and route from the Fireball Run to help him create another race that will help those in needs. During his time on the Fireball Run, he saw over 43 kids rescued. He has copied this concept to give money out to those in need. I am thankful the Fireball Run has given him the vision to help others. Thank you JJ Sanchez for giving Craig Corbell this vision.

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