Skip to main content

Behind-the-Scenes: To Recognize an NF Hero, Decals to Podium in 48 Hours

By August 19, 2015February 28th, 2024Awareness, Story of NF, SWN, Ways to Give

By Jill Beck, Racing4Research Program Director

Our Racing4Research program recently visited Wisconsin for IMSA’s Continental Tire Road Race Showcase weekend. I traveled to Road America with a heavy heart, having just learned that we were on the verge of losing another NF Hero: 28-year-old Drew Leathers, 2012 CTF Ambassador, the inspiration for Cupid’s Undie Run, and someone I consider to be family.

Drew’s battle with schwannomatosis has been nothing short of heroic – the challenges he has overcome are mind-blowing – yet he’s always accepted each challenge with a sly smile and brutally funny irreverence. In typical Drew form, he decided to have a party to celebrate his life while he was alive and host a “FUN-eral” at his family’s home, which happened to be the same day as our Racing4Research event at Road America.

Unable to join the Leathers family in Georgia, I arrived at the track determined that we would celebrate Drew from afar. The idea was simple: while we couldn’t be with the family in person, the next best way to send our support and love was to recognize Drew on as many race cars as possible. Of course, in order for that to happen, I’d need to reach out to the various teams and drivers in the paddock and ask them to donate the valuable real estate on their race cars.

But first, I needed to get #ImWithDrew vinyl decals produced. Elkhart Lake is a fairly small town in Wisconsin – no FastSigns around the corner. But during our drive to the track that morning, I’d randomly noticed a building behind a corner gas station: Marshall Sign. So I took a chance and called late Thursday afternoon, asking them to make an assortment of decals – and, oh yeah, could they do it overnight. They were incredibly kind and started on the decals first thing in the morning!

Next was to get the decals on as many race cars as I could. Naturally, my first stop was Compass360 Racing, longtime supporters of the Foundation. Karl Thomson and the team were eager to support Drew, putting the decals on the team’s two Audi S3s and the new No. 76 Audi R8. My next stop was to catch up with driver Ryan Eversley. Ryan joined the Racing4Research program back in 2010 as part of our Rolex 24 effort and he quickly took our NF Heroes into his heart, becoming a part of our CTF family. Ryan is also a friend of Drew’s, living not far from the family. After some tears and a much needed hug, I asked Ryan if he would put a sticker in honor of Drew on his No. 93 Honda America Racing Team car. Never missing a beat, he said yes. The same with our friends at Park Place Motorsports and their No. 73 Porsche. More teams quickly followed, some having supported CTF in the past, others supporting the Foundation for the first time: Magnus Racing, Wayne Taylor Racing, Turner Motorsports, Mosing Motorcars, Next Level European, BimmerWorld, Strategic Wealth Racing/Goldcrest Motorsports, Automatic Racing, LAP Motorsports – Audi Sport even allowed us to put the decal on their cars used for the IMSA Hot Lap Experience!

Finally, I reached out to the FOX Sports broadcast team. It’s great to have the decals on the cars but even better to have the guys doing the TV broadcast mention it live, during the race. Longtime Foundation friends and past CTF Gala hosts Justin Bell and Brian Till were working that race, both touched by Drew’s battle and happy to help. Lead announcer Bob Varsha heard the story and was touched as well.

And you couldn’t write a better ending than the race finish on Saturday, with a last lap shocker that gave Ryan Eversley the win in the Continental Tire series race, dedicating his win to Drew. In fact, both the first and third place cars carried the #ImWithDrew logo. On the TUDOR United SportsCar side, Patrick Lindsey and Park Place Motorsports took pole position in the Children’s Tumor Foundation Porsche carrying the #ImWithDrew decal, with Patrick dedicating his second pole of the season to Drew. On Sunday the No. 73 finished on the podium, in third place.

In just 48 hours, we went from an idea to having #ImWithDrew decals on 17 IMSA race cars at Road America with coverage on two television broadcasts. An amazing tribute to the generosity of the racing community, our racing family, and further evidence of the special place our NF Heroes and the Children’s Tumor Foundation holds in the hearts of the drivers, teams and supporters. As a team, we will #EndNF.