BURGHILL, Ohio – The Lou Blaney Memorial is an annual event at Sharon Speedway in Hartford that his family began in 2009 in memory of the Hall of Fame driver, who won more than 600 times during his career.
After his death from Alzheimer’s disease in January 2009, his family “decided that we would raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of Lou,” says his widow, Kate Blaney.
Helen Paes, who came to be acquainted with fundraising group when she was development director for the Greater East Ohio Area Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, nominated the family for recognition as the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraising Group.
“Sometimes people that raise money for Alzheimer’s don’t get the credit that other charitable organizations do,” Paes says. “Kate and her family – they are relentless. They are totally dedicated to this cause.”
Activities that involve raising funds at the event – which features Sprint Car and Big Block Modified races, representing the two divisions in which Lou Blaney competed – comprise a live auction, Chinese auction and T-shirt sales, Kate Blaney says.
“We usually have 15 to 20 items in the live auction. These will be items worth quite a bit of money,” she says, including donated items from Nascar drivers such as shoes, gloves and even race suits.
This year, a set of cornhole boards featuring a picture of Lou Blaney, his sons Dave (who co-owns Sharon Speedway) and Dale, and grandson Ryan – all drivers – sold for more than $3,000.
A few years ago, Blaney says, she sold a jacket her husband had won at Mercer Raceway Park for being the Big Block Modified champion. The buyer then called her and asked if she wanted the jacket back to auction again to raise money.
“We auctioned it and he bought it again,” she says.
“Lou was a favorite race driver of many fans. And he raced for many, many, many years,” Kate Blaney says. “When we had the Lou Blaney Memorial, it seems like all the race fans wanted to be part of raising money for Alzheimer’s in honor of him.”
Over the years, the Blaney group has raised $100,000 for Alzheimer’s, Blaney and Paes estimate.
That money goes toward educating the general population, support groups for people “who need that extra support” and research into finding a cure, Paes says.
“I see their dedication and compassion for those with Alzheimer’s. They know firsthand what it’s like to care for a patient with Alzheimer’s,” Paes says.
Pictured: Kate Blaney is pictured with her late husband, Lou.