Auto Dealers Brighten Winter With a ‘Night of Lights’ Gala

Auto Show preview benefits three local charities

CLEVELAND, Feb. 3 /PRNewswire/ — The seventh annual “Night of Lights” gala, to benefit three local charities, will feature lavish hors d’oeuvres, a sumptuous dinner, three silent auctions and a sneak peek at the dazzling cars and hard-working trucks that star in the 2006 Greater Cleveland International Auto Show.

The black-tie-optional Night of Lights Charity Preview Fundraiser, hosted by the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers’ Association, takes place from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24 at the I-X Center. Tickets are $250 per person.

Richard M. Bass, Cleveland Auto Show chairman and president of Bass Chevrolet, welcomed the general public to attend Night of Lights.

“We’d like the public to come to this premier event,” Bass said. “The silent auctions will be super; the food will be phenomenal; the show preview provides a chance to see all the exciting automobiles and concept cars such as the new Chevrolet Camaro; and it’s a benefit for three worthy organizations.”

The March of Dimes, the Epilepsy Association and the Western Reserve Historical Society (and its Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum) will benefit.

The best aspect of this exciting event is that 100 percent of the proceeds go directly to charity. Our generous sponsors – Fifth Third Bank, FirstMerit Bank, Huntington National Bank and National City Bank – and the auto dealers pick up the tab for all the event expenses,” said Gary S. Adams, president of the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers’ Association. “Over the past six years, our Night of Lights events have raised more than $1 million for charity, and we expect to raise another $250,000 this year.”

Each charity organization will hold its own silent auction. Items include an acoustic guitar autographed by rock ‘n’ roll legends Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis; a poster-sized collection of signatures of the “Fifty Greatest NBA Players of All Time”; a framed signature of baseball’s Babe Ruth; and an item autographed by golfer Tiger Woods.

Bass talked about the event’s partner charity organizations and the natural affinity between the auto museum and auto dealers.

“At the Auto Show, the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum showcases many Cleveland-made cars, as well as Cleveland’s historic automotive beginnings,” Bass said. “We support the March of Dimes and the Epilepsy Association because we’ve seen the benefits their programs provide for individuals with those afflictions.”

The Western Reserve Historical Society and its Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum, at 10825 East Blvd. in Cleveland’s University Circle district, have been partners in Night of Lights since its inception.

The support the auto dealers’ organization has given the Crawford Auto- Aviation Museum over the years has been invaluable,” said Allan Unrein, the museum’s director. “From the space at the auto show itself, which shows the roots of Cleveland’s automotive history, to the way we benefit from the Night of Lights and the auctions, we are truly grateful for the auto dealers’ dedication to the museum.”

Kelley S. Needham is executive director of the Epilepsy Association (formerly known as the Epilepsy Foundation of Northeast Ohio). It provides support services for individuals with epilepsy, as well as their families.

“We applaud the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers’ Association for its outstanding commitment to assisting local charities,” Needham said. “The Night of Lights is a great event, and the funds generated enable us to provide very important services.”

The March of Dimes’ mission is to improve infant health; its mission is to reduce the number of premature births, lower infant mortality rates and prevent birth defects.

“The opening day of the auto show will see 52 babies born prematurely in Ohio,” said John Ladd, state director of program services for the March of Dimes Ohio Chapter. “(The Night of Lights’) contribution will support our efforts to give these babies a fighting chance.”

GCADA’s Adams commented that auto dealers are good community citizens with roots in local communities. Dealerships are still owner-operated in an era when many other retail categories have become dominated by national chains.

“Our dealerships do so much in their communities – providing cars for homecoming games and local parades, donating to hospital building funds, school athletic programs, libraries and more,” he said. “The Night of Lights is a big, public way we can help the broader community by helping these three organizations.”

In a separate GCADA charity effort, Harvest for Hunger / Dealership Employee Appreciation Night has netted about 99,000 pounds of food for local food banks over the past six years. GCADA dealership employees and their families will again this year bring non-perishable food items to gain admission for their own sneak preview of the Cleveland Auto Show.

Harvest for Hunger, in its 15th year, is a month-long food and funds drive for local food banks.

“(The auto dealers’ family donation program) brings in 15,000 to 18,000 pounds of food each year,” said Beth Gaglione, Harvest for Hunger campaign director. “Since it started in 2000, that has been the largest single-day, on- site food collection in March.”

The Night of Lights honorary committee includes Bass and Adams, as well as Daniel Calloway of the Epilepsy Association board; Marilyn Schneider, a past member of the March of Dimes board; Jim Schoff and David Sunderhaft of the Western Reserve Historical Society board; and Fred Baker, Kirt Frye, Dick Marcellino and Patrick Norris of the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers’ Association.

The 2006 Greater Cleveland International Auto Show presented by AutoTrader.com is the fifth largest in the nation. For Night of Lights ticket and table information, please contact GCADA at 440.746.1500.

The show opens to the public on Saturday, Feb. 25 and runs through Sunday, March 5. Parking is free. The official Web site is www.clevelandautoshow.com sponsored by BP.

Hours are Friday and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sundays 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Monday through Thursday noon to 10 p.m. Box office prices are $11.50 for adults and $9 for seniors and pre-teens; children 6 and younger are FREE when accompanied by an adult. Those age 62 or older can take advantage of a Senior Weekday Special ticket price of $8.50 Monday through Friday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission includes a 2006 official souvenir program – a $5 value.

The I-X Center is located One I-X Center Drive, Cleveland, Ohio 44135, near Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. FREE PARKING is available to all visitors throughout the show.

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