By Rick Morwick
What do you get when you combine parachute pants, Van Halen T-shirts, a clunker car, a map of Route 66 and three high school friends from the class of 1984?
An epic ’80s-themed road trip, of course. One that mixed fun and fundraising for a pair of noble causes: Funding the upcoming Carmel High School class of 1984’s 35th reunion and making a generous donation to the Carmel Education Foundation.
Class of ’84 friends Scott Smalstig, John Stewart and Brad Ellis raised enough money for both by completing last year’s Route 66 Lemon Road Rally, an eight-day, 2,700-mile trip from Chicago to Santa Monica, Calif., on Route 66. They completed the journey, per Lemon Rally rules, in a car valued at less than $500, on a path christened “Route Sucky Suck” for the occasion.
The trio raised money by soliciting pledges from classmates and posting “thank you” vidoes in their honor during stops along the famous highway.
“We decided we’d put our fundraising skills together to ask classmates to sponsor segments of the trip,” said Smalstig, a Yorktown resident who is vice president of development for Meridian Health. “John and I called classmates along the way, then asked them to pledge $1 per mile of their segment and did a thank-you video in their honor featuring a photo from the (1984) yearbook and a fun story or two.”
Longtime friends who get together every couple of years for reunion adventures, Smalstig, Stewart and Ellis were intrigued by the Lemon Road Rally and thought it would be a fun time and a good way to raise money for the reunion and the Carmel Education Foundation. They wore vintage ’80s apparel throughout the trip in a 1984 Bonneville Brougham that required considerable repairs before the journey.
“We weren’t sure we’d make it to Lafayette, much less Chicago, or the eventual destination of Santa Monica, Calif.,” Smalstig said.
The friends successfully completed the Oct. 27-Nov. 3, 2018 trip and raised more than $3,500 in the process, $2,000 of which will benefit the Carmel Education Foundation. The remainder will fund the Sept. 21 class reunion at Muldoon’s (Sept. 20) and Matt the Miller’s Tavern (Sept. 21) in Carmel.
“In addition to helping us put on a successful reunion, we wanted to make sure most of the money would help Carmel schools,” Smalstig said. “Each time we get together for reunions, we all remark how lucky we were to grow up in Carmel.”