Yes, We'll Rally 'Round The Charities
The Indianapolis Star - Cathy Kightlinger August 13, 2009

Take 11 area charities trying to get by in tough economic times, add in a driving competition worth a top prize of $10,000, and what do you get?

Last weekend's fifth annual Woodard Van Riper Charity Challenge Road Rally.

The event - which began and ended at Turner Woodard's Stutz Business Center - turned leaders of area charities into rivals as they meandered southwest, stopped for lunch at the Woodard family's Wasatch Lake in Owen County and then returned to the Stutz, totaling 180 miles. At stake was a total of $30,500, donated by Woodard's family foundation.

Along the way - through nine municipalities outside Indianapolis, over covered bridges and gravel roads, and past farm fields - contestants were required to spot landmarks and answer questions for points.

After about seven hours on the road, College Mentors for Kids prevailed. Despite losing a point for misspelling "cemetery," the team earned the top prize.

The nonprofit organization, which pairs youngsters with college-student mentors for weekly activities that encourage higher education, also won the rally in 2005.

"(Teams) don't know what they are walking into, if they haven't done it before," said Erin Slater, CEO of College Mentors. "When you walk away, you're like, 'Wow, I couldn't have anticipated anything like that. That was amazing.' "

WFYI (Channel 20) earned the second-place prize of $7,500. Keep Indianapolis Beautiful's team came in third, receiving $5,000. The other eight charities - Heartland Truly Moving Pictures, Hoosier Environmental Council, Junior Achievement of Indianapolis, Third Phase Inc., Young Audiences of Indiana, Indianapolis Zoo, Historic Landmarks Foundation and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra - received $1,000 each.

The road rally is a family affair for the Woodards.

Woodard's mother, Edna, waved a green flag to start it. Other family members handed out questionnaires and scored rally sheets.

"Everybody has their way and style of doing things," Woodard said at a post-rally dinner at the Canterbury Hotel. "This is our style."

He said he hoped the event would allow leaders of charities to get to know each other better. And it did.

Indianapolis Zoo President and CEO Mike Crowther was feeling competitive with the other teams - especially when he realized that the zoo wasn't winning.

"I just want to start over," he said. "I'm so angry (with myself)."

Filmmaker Angelo Pizzo ("Rudy," "Hoosiers") drove Dawn Tabler's BMW convertible for the Heartland group, which puts on the Heartland Film Festival.

At dinner, Tabler said she didn't know if her BMW would ever be the same, and joked that Heartland's $1,000 prize might be used to repair it.

"Angelo drove my car like it's never been driven before," she said.

Participants agreed that the offbeat event was worth the Saturday it took to complete. "I know for many it was a different sort of day," Woodard said at the dinner. "That was one of our goals. We hope all of what we are doing will help in some way."

Woodard Van Riper
Family Foundation
C/O The Stutz Business Center
1060 North Capitol Avenue, C-200
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204