Racers jump at the chance to help out others in need. This is especially the case when whoever is “in need” is someone among the racing fraternity, regardless of the discipline they compete.
For Graham Rahal, this instinct kicked in immediately following Dan Wheldon’s tragic death. “I felt that I wanted to make a difference and I wanted to help. So, immediately following the race in Las Vegas, I thought to myself ‘Okay, if I can make a difference, how can I do it?’”
His best answer was an auction to raise money for the Wheldon family. But, what started out as a small and simple quickly turned into something bigger than anyone could have hoped for. “Originally, I said that I would just donate my helmet,” he explained. “And quickly it turned into this worldwide auction with people donating items from everywhere. It’s been pretty incredible and the support has been fantastic.”
What made this venture especially interesting is that it took place in a public forum. Rahal made his intentions known through his twitter account, with his original message then receiving responses from other racing and sports figures all over the world, all responding via twitter. “Literally, every bit of it was (through) social media, “said Rahal. “It was a huge, huge part of getting (the auction) out there and also, as it continues to grow, that’s the way that we’re doing it.”
Over the next few days, an array of items began pouring in, and not just within the motorsports and/or sports world. Vacations and trips were also brought into the picture. This large spread of items is something Rahal is very enthusiastic about. “The important thing is that we’re not only hitting the INDYCAR community but we’re hitting everybody, you know? If you want to take your kids on a vacation, here’s your opportunity! Obviously, the Mexico trip’s pretty extreme, and that bid’s getting pretty high, but it’s everything in between that. We’re going to have a couple other vacation homes that people can bid on.”
Of course, though, the overwhelming majority of the auction is comprised of motorsports memorabilia, ranging from helmets and fire suits all the way to gloves and visors. “For those IndyCar fans, my helmet’s going to be up there, Dario (Franchitti)’s helmet’s going to be up there. Will Power’s got a suit coming. Ryan Briscoe’s got a helmet (coming). We’ve got Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan sending us helmets. We have items from helmets to suits to visors to gloves to shoes. So, those people who can’t afford to spend several thousand dollars on a helmet, trust me I understand. So, we’ve put out there that we’re going to have some visors for you that should go a little bit cheaper. Same thing with suits, which should be a little bit cheaper, and certainly shoes and gloves. So we’ll have something for everyone.”
In fact, the auction actually grew too quickly for Rahal and company, as they had to start turning away additional offers. “We’re not really accepting any more items currently. We’ve kind of gotten so many items that we think we’ve hit a home run here. And now we’re going to let it all play out, let everybody bid on them, and we’ll see where we end up.”
Though the exact total is still unknown (they are still counting everything up), it is estimated that 300-400 items will be up for auction. They will come available in groups, meaning that the auction itself does yet have a specific deadline. “It’s going to be up for quite a while,” said Rahal. “All the items that go up will be up for ten days and we have a lot of items. We’re not putting everything up at once, it’s kind of coming in waves. So, there will be a lot of items coming up over I would say the next week or week-and-half.”
As goals go, Rahal believes that they have far surpassed anything he could have imagined. “There are no goals. I can tell you right now that we have far exceeded what I would say a goal was,” he said matter-of-factly. “I hoped we could raise $150,000 and on Monday night, we raised $40,000 in the first hour. Not only that, the bids we were seeing, I couldn’t believe. Jimmie Johnson’s race-worn helmet got up to $13,000 in an hour. The trip to Mexico got up over $11,000. We’ve had items that are just flying off the shelf.”
In all, the rate at which this event has grown has been a big and pleasant surprise for all involved. “Yeah I am (surprised), it’s just gotten huge and it’s grown so fast,” said an excited Rahal. “It’s been pretty impressive. It’s pretty amazing that a world can unite like this. Whether you’re in racing or not, there’s been so many people who have offered up some great things. As I said, I just really appreciate everybody’s help. I never expected this! I can tell you most all of us never expected it.”
Rahal has not been alone in this venture. Many people have been involved in the project, all lending a hand in organizing everything together. “We got a lot of help from my friends here. My girlfriend, Laken, has been a huge part of it. Becky Hunter-Reay (Ryan’s wife) has been a huge part of it. We’ve had several people who have really come together right now and united to make this a great auction. I’m proud to say that it’s turned out very successfully so far.”
For a full list of the items available, visit http://www.danwheldonmemorial.com/ or the auction’s Ebay page.