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Riding to remember and forget
Charity event offers break for kids with cancer
A-Ride to Remember pic1
Cristian Serban gets ready for his ride in Ben Browns Ferrari on Saturday at Atlanta Motorsports Park. - photo by Amy French Dawson County News

It may have been a misnomer.

The 11th annual Rides to Remember charity event on Saturday gave pediatric cancer patients a chance to actually forget some of their day-to-day struggles as the kids got to take a ride in an exotic car around the track at Atlanta Motorsports Park.

"Every year we come up here it is an emotional day for us, but it is a super rewarding day because we get to kind of take their minds off of what they fight every day," said Will Campbell, general manager of Ferrari Maserati of Atlanta.

That is the case for 13-year-old Cristian Serban, according to his mother.

"It's really fun," Claudia Serban said. "They forget what they have been through with this kind of event...I see he is smiling and happy. He is so excited so he can focus on the good side, not on the bad side."

Cristian Serban has a brain tumor but has been cancer-free for the past three months.

Ferrari Maserati of Atlanta started the event more than a decade ago to honor a family member who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. The dealership partners with local sponsors and car owners to raise funds for organizations like Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Owners of exotics sports cars gather at the dealership in Alpharetta to drive in a police-escorted caravan to the Atlanta Motorsports Park in Dawsonville where more than 100 children, ages eight to 18, have the opportunity to take a ride around the track in the vehicle of their choice.

Serban participated this year for the second time.

"I'm pretty excited," he said. "I rode the Lotus and Ferrari [last year]. I like the Lotus."

Children and their families visited the face painting booth, played games and listened to music from the live DJ while waiting for the cars to arrive after a traffic delay on 400.

There was no mistaking their arrival.

The loud, low rumble of engines seemed to drown out the music and got everyone's attention as the cars pulled up the hill and into the designated spaces.

Kids and parents alike were visibly excited as they made their way to the parking lot to peruse the cars, deciding which ones they wanted to take a ride in.

"It's great for the morale of the kids," said president and CEO of Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities Beth Howell. "It helps hundreds of families each year."

Serban chose a Ferrari 458 Spyder for his first ride around the track.

Owner Ben Brown drove it down from Nashville to participate.

"It's hard to put it in words," Brown said about the event. "We have these wonderful machines and it's nice to be able to share them."

Serban's mom waited and snapped pictures while Cristian took his turn.

It was clear that the owners were enjoying the rides as much as the kids as they lined up to take a spin.

Serban stepped out of the red Ferrari with a spectacular grin.

"It was awesome," he said. "He went fast."

"They are having a ball. They will go out repeatedly. They will get to experience different cars. The drivers all get into it," Campbell said.

All funds raised this year will go to Sunshine, Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities and CURE Childhood Cancer. Donation totals were not available as of press time.

Sponsors included Global Protective Services, Atlanta Motorsports Park, Morrison Healthcare, Sharp Residential, CarTunes of Atlanta, Magnum Collision Repair Center, Ninja Multimedia, Andretti Indoor Karting & Games and The Partnership.