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May 17, 2004

Classic cars rev up fund-raiser at school for deaf

From: Press-Enterprise (subscription), CA - May 17, 2004

RIVERSIDE: The event, hosted by the Inland Mopars club, features about 250 classic cars.

By SONJA BJELLAND / The Press-Enterprise

RIVERSIDE - Five gray-haired men gathered around Thomas Utley's dark blue 1946 Chevrolet two-door sedan.

The group communicated in sign language to gather for a photo in front of the car at the annual Craft Faire and Car Show for the Friends of the California School for the Deaf, Riverside, held at the school.

Utley, who also communicated in writing, said he not only enjoyed seeing the almost 250 cars but also liked supporting the school. He and others drove from Lancaster to participate in the car show, which was hosted by the Inland Mopars club.

Visitors perused classic and souped-up cars while tunes such as Kiss Me Each Morning blared over loud speakers. Crafts, funnel cakes and other fair fare also brought in money for the group. But the largest crowd watched as alumni and friends paid $1 for three chances to dunk school Superintendent Harold Kund in the dunk tank.

Some programs funded by the Friends group include projects for literacy, career awareness day and scholarships for the school's 477 students, said Katie Jacobs, organization president. Most of the group's money comes from gifts and memorials, which the fund-raiser augments while also educating the public, she said.

"It's really nice. You get the deaf community with the hearing community with cars," Jacobs said.

The day started with a pancake breakfast served by the Center on Deafness in the Inland Empire and continued with coloring contests, a car-part swap meet and car contest. Many volunteers and alumni also joined to support the school and gather with friends.

"It's just wonderful the school has the opportunity to raise money and get the two communities together," said Jeff Hamm. "It's a place where they can come and learn using their language."

Hamm used to volunteer as an interpreter at the school. Now he works to help job seekers who may be deaf or hard of hearing at the state Employment and Development Department.

"I just saw the language and it was beautiful," he said while signing it simultaneously. "I had a knack to pick it up, and I felt I had the responsibility and the privilege to bridge the two communities."

Hamm also translates for co-worker Dennis White at the state agency. White and his friends fixed barbecue to raise money for the Inland Empire Deaf Club softball club.

"It's interesting to see us united as a community," White said through Hamm.

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