Save your life Car Show – Cruisin’ For a Cure

Costa Mesa Car show "Crusin' for a Cure" Pinup logoAt the recent 2009 LA Roadster Show, I was lucky to meet Debbie Baker, the president and chair fro Crusin’ for a Cure.  Cruisin’ the largest one day charity car show with proceeds going to the City of Hope for prostate cancer research. supports all things that bring cars and a great cause together… Plus, Debbie’s just good people. 

With Casey Simpson singing live and Event MC, straight from the NHRA Dave McClelland MC’ing, this is a must event for everyone within driving distance to Costa Mesa, CA on Saturday, September 26th.

Here’s a little info about Debbie and how the show got started:

Cars have always been central to Debbie Baker’s life. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, she spent her formidable years – the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, when tail fins gleamed, V8’s were king and heavy metal came with four tires and a steering wheel – cruising up and down Van Nuys Boulevard and hanging out at Bob’s Big Boy. After graduating from Van Nuys High School, she headed south to Orange County in 1973, leaving her Valley Girl ways, but not her love of cars, behind.

In need of a way to support her car habit, Debbie’s been a professional her whole life working in real estate.  Not surprisingly, her husband of 30 years Jim, was a car nut himself.  Jim passed away this year after his 12 year battle of prostate cancer. 

“With more than 3,500 cars on display in 2002, Cruisin’ For A Cure officially became the largest one-day car show in the nation, a title it continues to hold.

She and her husband had been regulars at car shows for years (Debbie has a current model Corvette and a 1936 Chevy Pickup Truck and is President of her car club Hot Rods Unlimited), but it was her husband’s prostate cancer diagnosis in 1996, followed the same year by her boss’s diagnosis with the disease, that spurred Debbie to turn her passion for cars into a new mission: Cruisin’ For A Cure.

As her husband battled the disease, which doctors told them would likely kill him within 10 years – a prediction he proved wrong – she became his advocate, helping him navigate PSA scores, scans, treatment options, and much more. In the process, she discovered how ignorant other men were about prostate cancer and testing for the disease. “It is absolutely amazing how many men don’t even know what a prostate gland’s function is,” notes Debbie.

Wanting to help raise awareness about prostate cancer and help save lives, she realized “hooking” guys with cars then getting the message out about prostate cancer would be the perfect vehicle (pun intended) and Cruisin’ For A Cure was born in 2000.

Held at the Verizon Amphitheatre in Laguna Hills, the first event featured over 600 cars and was, in spite of rain, a major success. Most importantly, the car crowd loved it. By the second year, the number of entries had grown more than five times to an astounding 3,100 cars, which were displayed on six miles of runways at the former El Toro Marine Base, where Debbie had moved Cruisin’ For a Cure. She recalls, “As a way to honor the heroes who lost their lives and those people missing as a result of the September 11th tragedy, the show opened with more than 30 fire trucks parked in formation as a ladder truck raised a 60-foot flag into the sky while country singer Casey Simpson sang the national anthem. There wasn’t a dry eye anywhere.”

Hot rod car show Cruisin for a Cure Show cancer survivorsThe 2001 event also marked the debut of free prostate cancer screening tests for men over 40, provided by The Drive Against Prostate Cancer and the National Coalition for Prostate Cancer. More than 600 men were tested and 79 of them received a “see your doctor” notice. Over night, Cruisin’ For A Cure changed from being solely a fundraiser to what Debbie fondly calls the “save-your-life car show.”

The following year, needing yet more room, Debbie moved Cruisin’ For A Cure to the OCFair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, its current home. With more than 3,500 cars on display in 2002, Cruisin’ For A Cure officially became the largest one-day car show in the nation, a title it continues to hold.

Custom Car show "Cruisin for a Cure" car art workThe number of men tested for prostate cancer at the show, has also continued to grow each year. Over the past seven years, more than 6,300 men have taken free PSA tests – a simple blood test – at Cruisin’ For A Cure. Nearly 14% of them have been notified to “see your doctor.” So Debbie has literally helped to save the lives of hundreds of men, most of them complete strangers. She has also been known to personally escort friends and sponsors of Cruisin’ For A Cure to the testing van, several of whom were diagnosed with prostate cancer but are alive and well today, thanks to her.

There is, perhaps, no one more persuasive than Debbie. She promotes Cruisin’ For A Cure at other car shows year round and does not receive one penny, she is saving our men. She has procured financial or in-kind support for Cruisin’ For A Cure from nearly every major automotive company in the nation. She has earned glowing endorsements for her efforts to raise awareness about prostate cancer from the medical community. All the funds raised benefit the City of Hope and the wonderful prostate cancer program they have there.

Debbie is on a self-professed mission to save our men. And because of her efforts, she is well on her way to becoming as legendary in car circles and beyond as the Boulevard she once cruised in her youth.

Please show your support for Debbie and the Crusin’ for a Cure car show by commenting “I’ll be there!”