HOMETOWN PROFILES: Cruisin’ For Heroes Marries Love For Military And Classic Cars For Charity | Local News
Cruisin’ For Heroes is a local community group whose mission is to support the brave men and women who serve our country and their families while encouraging interest in the classic automotive hobby for current and future generations.
To achieve its goal, CFH partners with motivated individuals, organizations, businesses and retailers to help raise awareness and fund the Fisher House Foundation and other local charities and local community service groups supporting our military, veterans combatants and first responders.
Fisher House is known for its network of “comfort homes,” where military and veteran families can stay at no cost and be close to a loved one receiving treatment. There are currently 92 operating Fisher Houses located in major military and VA medical centers across the United States and Europe.
In 2006, with retirement on the horizon and after extensive research for an area that would meet their requirements to start CFH, Vietnam veteran Lou Realmuto and his wife Arlene moved to Culpeper. They wanted a place that had small-town charm with the amenities close to a big city, and after visiting Main Street and Davis Street and driving through the nearby countryside, it was obvious to them that Culpeper was what they hoped. .
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Additionally, one of Lou’s personal requirements was to relocate to an area that would allow him to renew his love of classic cars, which he enjoyed from an early age while growing up in Brooklyn, New York. He also thought it would be a great way to meet new people with similar interests.
In 2008, Realmuto began attending events in Culpeper and throughout Northern Virginia. He met Chuck Shotwell of Stafford at one of these shows.
It turned out that Shotwell and a small group of friends had interests that aligned directly with those of Realmuto – a love of country, classic cars, and a desire to support our military and various other charities.
The more the Fast Friends worked together, the more they realized that their goals and ideas for one day expanding the small group into a group that could have a bigger impact on the region were all in sync.
After discovering that Shotwell also had a passion for airplanes, Realmuto encouraged him to attend the annual Culpeper Air Fest in the fall of 2008. There, the two men came up with the idea that having a small display of Vintage and classic cars would be a great complement to the aircraft featured at the event. They approached Air Fest officials with the idea, and they’ve been a fixture at the show every year since 2009. And with their small group, they presented a display of classic vehicles at the 2009 show. They also set up their Cruisin For Heroes/Fisher House booth to distribute literature and accept donations.
In 2011, increased awareness of the Air Fest outfit allowed CFH to expand its reach. Original members Dan Crane of Stafford, Fred Davis of Spotsylvania and Andrew Robertson of Bristow began collaborating with various car clubs and local organizations, and the Air Fest exhibit grew accordingly. CFH also began to receive inquiries about holding other events, such as a grand opening for a McDonalds, an open house at an assisted living facility with a large population of veterans, local parades, several exhibitions in wineries in the region and other collaborations with various companies. Two of those cases saw CFH collaborating with local business owner Gary Walker at Ace Hardware in Culpeper and participating in an annual fundraiser at the MinuteMan Antique MiniMall.
In 2013, Realmuto, using its experience in sales, marketing and finance, began looking for opportunities to further expand CFH’s presence in the community. He actively sought out charities and organizations to collaborate with for similar goals.
Around the same time, CFH also began building an exclusive roster of classic vehicle owners who shared its vision and who, when appropriate, would attend and participate in its events. These volunteers included many local Culpeper neighbors who enjoyed showing off their special vehicle and talking with people about their vehicle.
By 2016, CFH had developed a strong reputation as a community service group that organizes family events that raise awareness and funds for Fisher House, as well as other community causes and charities.
In 2019, CFH’s schedule included what has now become their signature event: Air Fest; a monthly cruise to Culpeper Bruster’s; an annual Toys For Tots run from Fredericksburg to the Marine Corps Museum; a Rolling Thunder car show; and a fundraiser/silent auction for Fisher House.
While co-founder Shotwell made the difficult decision to step down from the band in 2017, original members Realmuto, Crane and Robertson, along with new members Joe Franzello of Reva and Steve Dohl of Culpeper, continue to connect with new members. new companies and organizations to produce as many events as possible.
Devin Payne of the Culpeper Star-Exponent contributed to this story.