SAMA’s annual ‘Rides’ brings smiles to youngsters, Warriors

SAMA’s annual ‘Rides’ brings smiles to youngsters, Warriors

SAMA member and Prestige Auto Specialists owner/president Marcello Serrato and his young passenger are all smiles and thumbs up after taking three fast laps around the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway in the new BMW i8 Hybrid automobile during this year’s Rides ‘n Smiles event.

My wife is a long-time pediatric critical care nurse. Much more than a job, her dedication to the children in her care and their parents is inspiring. I have spent many mornings comforting her in the wake of losing a patient to childhood cancer. Her connection to the parents goes beyond employment — many of them call her friend.

My brother is a Purple Heart recipient who served in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army. I know the battles that he faced both overseas and when he came home.

If ever there was an event that I could connect with on a personal level, it is the Southern Automotive Media Association’s Rides ‘n Smiles, held each November at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. This year’s event brought many of the world’s hottest performance cars together and offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to more than 150 cancer patients from Miami Children’s Hospital and Baptist Children’s Hospital of Miami and Homestead.

With members of SAMA and even famed Group 44 driver Bill Adam in the driver’s seat, the children were able to experience the thrill of putting the fastest Dodge, Nissan, Porsche, Jaguar, Viper, Corvette and Ferraris through their paces on the 1.5-mile oval track. In the afternoon, attention turned to our nation’s often unsung heroes, as SAMA members provided hot laps to approximately 80 deserving Wounded Warriors in attendance.

Not only were some of the manufacturer’s latest and greatest vehicles — including the new 707-horsepower Dodge Challenger Hellcat, a Chevy Corvette Z06 and a Nissan GT-R — on hand for the event, but several professional racing teams provide actual race cars, modified to include a passenger seat, and gave exhilarating rides to our nation’s bravest.

Of course, driving and riding around in these mechanical marvels was the main dish, but the car show that these beauties put on made for a satisfying appetizer, side and dessert.

Many thanks to Bill Adam and the Southern Automotive Media Association, of which Automotive Addicts is proud to be a member, for putting together and hosting such an amazing event. And thanks to Prestige Auto for bringing its dedicated team to work the event, and thanks also to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the incredible hospitality.

Chris Brewer is the senior editor of and writes a weekly automotive column for The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville.

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