On January 15, 2011 a lucky Vette enthusiast will receive a phone call from the Kids Wish Network with news of a significant addition to his or her garage. That person will win not one, but two Corvettes. One will be a classic '67 convertible with a matching-numbers 427/435 big-block and NCRS Top Flight certification. The second will be a brand-new ZR1 featuring a 720hp Lingenfelter-enhanced engine, one of more than 30 special modifications.
If half the fun of winning is the anticipation, every one of us can purchase that thrill for a scant three bucks. That's the cost of one ticket, and it drops even further as purchase volume goes up. (Go to www.winthevettes.com to buy tickets or for more info.)
The winner will find the ZR1 to be a truly one-of-a-kind Corvette. Officially, the name is the "Brad Paisley Hero Edition, Serial No. 1." Actually, the serial number is a moot point because there will be just one car.
While the country-music superstar lent his name to the car to help the hospitalized children served by the charity, both Brad Paisley and his father have Corvettes of their own. When we did our photo shoot in late August, the paper tags were still on Brad's own new ZR1. A week or so earlier he had taken delivery at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He tells us he considers the latest ZR1 the "absolute pinnacle of American sports cars to this point."
The ZR1 Hero Edition that bears his name is quite a bit different from the stock one he drives. It follows many of the styling cues, as well as the color combination, of the '67, which remains bone stock. United Charities International (UCI)-the fundraiser for Kids Wish Network-put this plan together.
As hot as the ZR1 is stock, UCI felt that further upgrading its output was critical. Lingenfelter Performance Engineering gets credit for almost 100 extra horses courtesy of its supercharger-pulley-and-snout upgrade. Alternative Automotive Technologies (AAT) in Detroit made a host of cosmetic changes to link the car visually with the '67, arguably the best-looking Corvette model of all time.
This job was akin to building a prototype Vette, or at least a pilot vehicle. "We did a lot of artist's renderings in the beginning," says AAT's Bryan Williams.
The build was so extensive, AAT actually stripped the ZR1 down to the chassis for the transformation, which included a complete repaint to match the Ermine White of the '67. Williams says that at the beginning, with the two cars parked side-by-side, "they didn't look like they belonged in the same room together." But, when the work was finished, the ZR1 looked like a "morph" of the '67, "almost like the same designer did both cars."
There will only be one winner in the drawing for this spectacular pair of Vettes. However, the money generated will benefit literally thousands of kids with life-threatening ailments, thanks to the Corvette Dream Giveaway's highly successful "Hero" program.
According to Alicia Lyons, executive director of the Kids Wish Network, Inc., the charity fulfills wishes for children between the ages of 3 and 18 who are living with life-threatening illnesses. It also offers other important programs. "In fact," says Lyons, "the charity's fastest-growing program is our 'Hero of the Month,' which is fully funded by our annual Corvette Dream Giveaway.
"Participating hospitals around the country become members of their network. Then, monthly, each hospital selects a child who has faced and overcome tragic circumstances with their courage and spirit [and become] an inspiration to their family and their care providers. They present that child their Hero of the Month award."
Kids Wish Network provides that child with a pre-paid gift card, a plaque, and numerous "value-added items," such as T-shirts and other age-appropriate gifts.
According to Lyons, the recognition these children receive often has a major impact on their lives. She speaks of the "amazing transformations" experienced by kids who were previously depressed due to their medical conditions. Many have even returned to help other hospitalized children.
Mark Breiner and Pat Meehan of UCI Dream Giveaways also talked with us about the Dream Giveaway and its impact on the charity's Hero program.
"It's just been an amazing program," said Breiner. "When we started funding Kids Wish Network's Hero program through the Corvette Dream Giveaway, there were just 30 hospitals around the country that participated. The Corvette Dream Giveaway was and is the only source of funding for this program, and there has been a long waiting list of hospitals."
The hospital total rose to 100 the second year and to 170 facilities in this, the third year of the program. Multiplying 170 times 12 months amounts to more than 2,000 kids recognized each year by individual hospitals. Breiner told us he's always thought the Corvette community was "very giving" and "a big reason for the success of [the] program."
Then there's the celebrity angle. When the child is selected each month, the hospital has a "pretty cool ceremony," according to Meehan. "Often times a celebrity will come. If it's in Houston, an astronaut might be there. Or it might be an entertainer like Brad Paisley.
"Over the years Brad has been an important supporter of the program," Meehan said. "He's helped Kids Wish Network to help children who wanted to meet him as their wish, and he provided a very nice testimonial in an introduction to a promotional video for Kids Wish Network several years ago. So we wanted to recognize that.
"He does things very quietly and privately. He doesn't look for notoriety or special recognition. We knew it would be a great way to salute and recognize Brad for his support and affinity for sick children. And it doesn't hurt that he loves Corvettes."
And of course, as a triple Grammy winner and three-time Country Music Association Male Vocalist of the Year, Paisley's name recognition didn't hurt the program, either.
But in the end, the program is less about horsepower and star power than it is about the power to support and uplift the children it serves. According to Breiner, "The program is a real spirit-builder for these children and something that has changed their lives and their families' lives."