KANSAS CITY, Kan. — By shifting gears and test-driving a new way of raising funds, Our Lady of Unity Parish here thinks it’s found a key to success.
The OLU Car Club is revving up plans for the third Our Lady of Unity Car, Truck & Bike Show, which will be held at the parish from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 25.
It just seemed like a natural road to take for some parishioners.
“We’ve been showing our Chevelle for 32 years,” said parishioner Kevin Johnson. “We’ve always gone to car shows . . . and our kids were raised going to car shows.”
His wife Sherry got the wheels turning on the idea several years ago.
“The parish was looking for fundraiser ideas, and Sherry threw out, ‘Well, we could do a car show,’” said Kevin.
The concept was totally new to Father Kent O’Connor, pastor of Our Lady of Unity.
But he was willing to go along for the ride — and over the past two years, he’s become quite a fan.
He is even responsible for his own “pastor pick” winners, who, like all the winners, receive a one-of-a-kind trophy hand-fashioned by parishioner John Yetter out of old car parts.
The show also features a “principal’s pick” and a host of other awards.
For some, the event is all about the friends and fellowship — and even a little bit of food: “zip burgers” served up by the Knights of Columbus.
“I just enjoy coming out and seeing different cars — and coming up here to be with friends,” said parishioner Marc Magerl, who is the main cook for the car show. “This is my second family — church family.”
But for others, it’s the cars.
“I’ve seen every hot rod made in the last 30 years,” said Johnnie Czirr, a Kansas City, Kansas, car enthusiast. “I go [to shows] to just visit and see if somebody’s got something new they’ve built.”
“That’s why we all go to these shows — to see what somebody else has done,” said Bill Feldman, also a big fan of car shows.
“It’s been a blast,” agreed Sandy Leroux, who has enjoyed the show since it started. “I love going to the car shows just to see the creativity that people have in their cars. Everybody’s proud of what they have, and you never know what you’ll see.”
There’s no charge for spectators who just go out to look and have some fun. The money is raised from those who pay an entry free to show their car, truck or bike, and the sponsors.
The event will also feature live music, including One Nite Only KC with its all-star blues revue, as well as local food, craft and product vendors.
Organizers hope to see an especially good turnout of motorcycles this year.
“We’re trying to get a multitude of vintage bikes in here from around the world,” said Yetter.
There’s even a kids’ category, which the committee hopes will be a popular one. Categories include bicycles, wagons, mini cars, models and pinewood.
The concept is definitely catching on. It started with only about 60 entries the first year, and topped 100 in 2014.
And with the growing numbers, the parish is bringing much-needed funds and awareness to the parish and the school.
“It is something out of the ordinary. That’s why we’re doing it,” said Yetter.
“And that brings people in who aren’t necessarily Catholic,” added Sherry Johnson. “We want all faiths in, or people who are maybe lost and don’t have a faith.
“This might be the home for them.”
Our Lady of Unity Car Show
When: 8 a.m.-2 p.m. April 25
Where: Our Lady of Unity Parish, 2646 S. 34th St., Kansas City, Kansas
Sponsorship deadline: April 1
Car, truck and cycle entries will be taken until the event, which will take place rain or shine.
For information, send an email to: OLUCarClub@yahoo.com; or call Sherry Johnson at (913) 207-0900, or John Yetter at (913) 484-7756. There is also a Facebook page, which can be found by searching for OLU Car Club.