By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
A request for two Quad-City DJs to make a pop-in visit to a virtual pinewood derby Cub Scout event has led to a celebrity fundraising event for the Illowa Boy Scout Council.
JR Girskis, committee chair for Cub Scout Pack 199 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf, and his wife Kris, the pack’s cubmaster, said this year’s annual pinewood derby was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
When it became evident that the in-person pinewood derby would not happen this year, JR reached out to Quad-City radio celebrities Greg Dwyer and Bill Michaels on 97X radio. He asked the duo to make an appearance at the virtual race on May 16, via Zoom video conference. “They took it a step further and asked if they could host a celebrity race, and raise money for our local council,” Kris said.
Illowa Council has essentially been shut down since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and recently announced that it has cancelled all summer overnight and day camps for Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA.
Jeff Doty, scout executive with the Illowa Council based in Davenport, said like most nonprofits, the council has seen income from donations, businesses and camps severely cut. Some online programs are being offered. “We are grateful to JR and Dwyer and Michaels for getting involved.”
Kris said that she and JR, along with Dwyer and Michaels, want to see scouting continue after COVID-19 has subsided. “So this is our effort to help them (the scouting council) get back on their feet,” she said.
JR “asked if either of us still had our pinewood derby cars,” Michaels said. He achieved Eagle Scout rank and Greg completed Webelos in the Cub Scout program.
“Since the pandemic had altered the timeline and schedule of the pinewood derby, JR was thinking about having his scouts ‘race against the DJs’ just for fun,” Michaels said. “When we mentioned it on the radio, listeners started suggesting opening it to other people — local celebrities — and it took off from there.”
Dwyer and Michaels have lined up Pat Miletich, MMA champion and commentator; Michael Nunn, boxing champion; Pat Angerer, Iowa Hawkeyes and Indianapolis Colts football player; Julian Vandeveldie, Iowa Hawkeyes and Philadelphia Eagles football player; Jake Gervase, Iowa Hawkeyes and Los Angeles Rams football player; Seth Rollins, WWE world heavyweight champ; and Alex Tanney, Monmouth Fighting Scots and New York Giants football player.
Michaels said the local celebrities are “all in” with excitement to participate. Each celebrity can use their old pinewood derby cars or create a new one. “And some are recruiting friends to help — like engineers and people with skills,” Michaels said. The celebrities are asked to autograph their cars for the auction.
Michaels added, “I’m really excited at the response from the celebrities. We’re all acting like little kids prepping for the pinewood derby: 110% enthusiasm and competition. It actually might be closer to 200%.”
Cub Scout Pack 199 will run its derby May 16 at 1 p.m. It will be available for viewing on the pack’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook. com/LourdesPack199/. The race will be run and live-streamed with a limited number of adults present at the Illowa Council offices, Doty said. Everyone is invited to cheer from home.
The celebrity derby will run May 22 and be live-streamed at https://97x.com/ and on the radio station. A time is to be set. Following the celebrity race, donations from sponsors and an auction of cars will go to the Illowa Council. Details on the auction will be made available when plans are complete, Doty said.