IRL: "Save Arnold" Benefit Barbecue May 10

SPECIAL ATHLETES BENEFIT FROM 'SAVE ARNOLD' BARBECUE INDIANAPOLIS, May 5, 1998 -- Arnold The Pig has a private burial site with a picket fence around it on the Terre Haute, Ind., property of Indianapolis Motor Speedway chairman Mari...

SPECIAL ATHLETES BENEFIT FROM 'SAVE ARNOLD' BARBECUE

INDIANAPOLIS, May 5, 1998 -- Arnold The Pig has a private burial site with a picket fence around it on the Terre Haute, Ind., property of Indianapolis Motor Speedway chairman Mari Hulman George. But Arnold lives again each May at the Speedway. At least his memory does. On the first Sunday that the Speedway is open for Indianapolis 500 practice, the annual "Save Arnold" barbecue to benefit the Indiana Special Olympics program takes place at the track on the Flag Lot behind the Timing and Scoring Tower. The 18th renewal of the popular event will take place at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 10. The barbecue and sports activities, involving teams comprised of Special Olympics participants and Indy drivers, have raised $1,388,000 for the statewide program since 1981. "Of all the fund raisers we've had over the years, nothing has had a more dramatic affect," said Dennis Schmidt, executive director of Special Olympics of Indiana, "because of the dollars raised and the awareness it brings due to the drivers' involvement. The Hulman-George involvement definitely has been a good thing for us." In the beginning, Arnold became a symbolic reason to contribute to the first barbecue held in 1981. Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials had visited Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama and noticed the track had a special picnic area. They thought that a similar site should be established at their track. A row of permanent tents was set up behind the Tower Terrace where sponsors and others could hold afternoon and evening social functions. Mrs. George wanted a nice unveiling of the new facility and thought a charity event would be appropriate. Then Dave Overpeck, the late sports writer for the Indianapolis Star, brought together Schmidt and Mrs. George in a Speedway suite one rainy May day in 1980. That's when the decision was made to involve Special Olympics. But how to promote the first barbecue? "I had a little pet pig, an orphan, in my house," Mrs. George said. "My Doberman had a false pregnancy and adopted him. We decided to say that if we didn't raise enough money (donations), Arnold would become the main entree. "We got T-shirts that said "Who's Arnold?" and "Save Arnold." We got sponsors, and it just grew and grew and grew." So did Arnold. At first he was brought to the track in a special trailer, and he had his own pen. But Arnold, like all pigs, loved to eat. Soon he weighed 1,000 pounds. And one hot summer, when he was about 5, he died. But by then, according to Mrs. George, the "Save Arnold" barbecue had caught on. The drivers, from multiple Indy winners to the rawest of rookies, found time to participate in the Sunday afternoon program. Some could shoot a basketball or hit a softball with the best, while others proved that sports outside the racecar cockpit were not for them. But they all had fun. "I'm pleased to participate in the Special Olympics event every year," said Scott Goodyear, two-time Indy 500 runner-up. "I also support the Special Olympics here and in Toronto (his hometown). They (the athletes) have the same dreams and aspirations and goals as we do. It's an event I really enjoy." Adds another past second-place finisher, Roberto Guerrero: "It's a nice cause that Mari does for the kids, and it's fun for all. Too bad I'm not a better basketball player." Basketball shooting has been the main event the past three years. This time it will be back to home-run hitting of a softball. Last May some 4,000 Special Olympians, their families and friends participated in the barbecue. Eight teams of five Special Olympics athletes from around Indiana are teamed with one to three drivers in the competition. Scores are kept and ribbons presented. Everyone wears his "Arnold" T-shirt. "I never had any trouble getting the drivers," Mrs. George said. "I feel guilty asking them, but they always find time." Championship Auto Racing Auxiliary (C.A.R.A.) assists in the event each year. Indiana Gas and Conseco again will be involved, and Kroger's and Jug's Catering will provide the barbecue. When the "Save Arnold" program began, Special Olympics athletes in Indiana participated in two sports, swimming and track and field. Today, there are 17 sports - swimming, track and field, basketball, bowling, volleyball, team softball, gymnastics, golf, sailing, bocce, horseshoes, power lifting, alpine and Nordic skiing, figure and speed skating, and motor-skills activities. Also, when the "Save Arnold" event began, the Indiana Special Olympics' headquarters was located in Terre Haute. "We've been able to move to Indianapolis (9 years ago) because of Mari," Schmidt said. "We've more than doubled our revenues. Actually, we're close to tripling our revenues." Mrs. George marvels at the skills of the athletes and hopes to continue the charity barbecue into the 21st century. "They are some of the happiest, most grateful people I've ever met," she said. "I think it is wonderful that they can compete." Tickets: Tickets for the Save Arnold barbecue can be purchased through May 8 at the Special Olympics of Indiana office at 5648 W. 74th St., Indianapolis. The office is open daily from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tickets also can be bought at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway ticket office through May 10, the day of the barbecue. The IMS ticket office is open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. through May 8, from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. May 9 and 8 a.m.-6 p.m. May 10. Tickets cost $10 each. Call Special Olympics of Indiana at (317) 328-2000 or (800) 742-0612 for more information.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Goodyear , Roberto Guerrero