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A South Russell Police cruiser and a 2018 Lamborghini Huracán Performante, owned by Chardon resident Dean Fellinger (not pictured), are the backdrop for trophies that will be up for grabs during the Charity Car Show on Sunday.

The South Russell Police Department will once again present its Charity Car Show on Sunday.

The event began in 2019, raising $11,000 to help families affected by childhood cancer. The idea for the fundraiser came after the family of a village police officer received donations to help with expenses while their son was battling leukemia.

The event was put on hiatus last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Two years ago, officers in the department wanted to find a way to thank the community for its support. From there, Lt. Todd Pocek, 43, a self-proclaimed “car guy,” came up with the idea of the charity car show.

Lt. Pocek, a 21-year veteran in the department, said he then went to Chief Michael Rizzo, who was instantly on board.

“If you know the background of South Russell Police Department, community service is what we take pride in,” said Chief Rizzo, 53. “The car show has kind of taken the place of what we used to do in our open house. This built on the open house.”

Once officers proposed the idea to the village Safety Committee, council and the mayor, it was an enthusiastic, “Yeah, let’s do this,” Lt. Pocek recalled.

More than 1,000 spectators are expected this Sunday, but Lt. Pocek said he is not concerned about the number.

“At the end of the day, I want everyone to have fun,” he said. “It’s for a great cause, but I don’t want to lose sight of this. It’s a fun event that highlights South Russell. Everyone gets to engage with everyone, and you get to relax, walk around, and look at nice cars and talk to the officers and car owners.”

One of the biggest sources of pride is that about 90 percent of the money raised goes back to the community. “It’s always donated directly to a family to help them through whatever troubles they’re having,” Lt. Pocek said.

Chief Rizzo, who has been with South Russell for 23 years, said that the car show brought the most attention, as hundreds of car enthusiasts filled the parking lot of the station in the past.

“If you looked from the police station out toward State Route 306 in the main driveway, it looked like the Cedar Point [Amusement Park] midway,” Chief Rizzo said. “It was incredible. It was filled with people, and people were having a great time. At that point I thought that this was the event to contend with.”

From there, the South Russell Police Association was formed in January of 2020 so the department would be able to give and receive donations, Lt. Pocek explained. The association is run by a board of officers and a member of the community.

“We quickly grew out of that and filed to become a 501(c)(3) [nonprofit] charity in April of 2021,” he added.

There has been no problem recruiting officers to help at the show. Lt. Pocek noted that “everyone was on board,” as fellow officers volunteered their time.

“We had an abundance of people and we actually had to turn people away because everyone just wants to be a part of it. It’s a fun and rewarding day,” Lt. Pocek said.

While car enthusiasts display prized vehicles to the shows, Lt. Pocek noted that someone can “bring any vehicle that they’re really proud of,” such as a first car.

Lt. Pocek said some officers display a car that they have been working on for years.

The show has vehicles ranging from Lamborghini’s to Mazda Miatas, Lt. Pocek said of the cars preregistered for the show.

“Anything goes,” Chief Rizzo added.

The family receiving the support remains anonymous, Lt. Pocek said, giving them privacy and the ability to decide if some of the money should go for a fun trip to Kelly’s Island when the patient is having a good day or a college fund.

The association donated money to three families so far even though the event was called off in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This year, nine trophies will be awarded. Lt. Pocek said he is most excited about the “Little Warrior Award,” where the last three children who were recipients of the donations are judges and select their favorite car in the show.

“That’s the award I would want to win if I was in the show,” Lt. Pocek said. “I’m getting a little choked up even talking about it.”

Chief Rizzo said that the mission and overall driving factor is to help the family at all costs.

“The moment you walk that check over, sometimes the family just falls apart with gratitude,” he added. “That’s the payoff of the whole thing. It’s the highlight of your entire career.”

The show begins at 11 a.m. at 5205 Chillicothe Road, South Russell. The event is free to the public and will feature food trucks, ice cream, raffles and music. Additional parking is available at Gurney Elementary School, 1155 Bell Road with trolley transport to the show. For more information, visit southrussellpoliceassociation.com.

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