Grab a Big Wheel and let your ‘inner child’ out this Saturday

Joliet nonprofit to host The Great American Big Wheel Race at ATI Stadium

Hearken back to carefree summer days and Big Wheel races with friends this Saturday at a new fundraiser.

The United Cerebral Palsy-Center for Disability Services is hosting The Great American Big Wheel Race at ATI Stadium in Joliet.

Visitors can pay $5 to enter and see as many as 15 teams of local businesses race each other with adult-sized Big Wheels.

For $40, visitors can bring their children’s own Big Wheels to race around the track with other spectators for a chance to win what the event’s website says will be “some really swank raffle prizes and gift cards.”

A commemorative T-shirt comes with registration.

UCP Development Director Gina Wysocki is co-chair of the event’s fundraising committee with former Joliet Junior College culinary arts professor Fred Ferrara. Wysocki said the Big Wheels event is meant to help replace the funds raised from the annual Great Chef’s Tasting Party and Auction Ferrara began more than two decades ago.

“It’s a really great way to raise money and appeal to the inner child,” Wysocki said. “And it will bring the community together.”

The last Great Chef’s Tasting event was in March 2020. Now the next one is being planned to resume March 6, 2022. Wysocki said that because the event is popular, only a unique event could replace it in 2021. Additionally, because the pandemic hasn’t ended, Wysocki said the event had to be friendly to safety precautions as well.

“The Great American Big Wheel Race is an opportunity to get outdoors to watch something fun,” Wysocki said. “The stadium is so large that people will be able to social distance.”

Although the Great American Big Wheel Race will raise money and awareness for UCP, the 15 teams also are competing for cash prizes they can donate to the charity of their choice, with first prize being $5,000. The top three teams will win other prizes as well.

The fundraiser is aiming for a patriotic theme, so event hosts encourage spectators and spectator riders to dress themselves and their Big Wheels in décor that reflects the theme.

Although 15 businesses registered for the race, Wysocki said she hoped more would sign up. She said that might be because some local businesses are still not back to full staffing capacity, Wysocki said.

That’s another reason why Wysocki said the Great American Big Wheel Race is the perfect event for 2021. She remembered Big Wheel races from her childhood and how whenever her shoelaces became caught in her wheels, she’d ask to redo the race.

“I think many people want a ‘redo’ of 2020,” Wysocki said.

Wysocki first saw a Big Wheel race many years ago in San Francisco, California, where Riders dressed as superheroes rode Big Wheels down twisting roads to the roar of a cheering crowd. Although some companies will host the event for organizations, Wysocki said those are expensive.

Which is why UCP decided to take up the challenge.

“I think many of us need to look inside and talk to our inner child, put them back on a Big Wheel,” Wysocki said, “and let them be a kid again.”

For information about the UCP, to register for the spectator race or buy spectator tickets in advance, go to ucp-cds.org or call 815-744-3500, ext. 220.

Denise  Unland

Denise M. Baran-Unland

Denise M. Baran-Unland is the features editor for The Herald-News in Joliet. She covers a variety of human interest stories. She also writes the long-time weekly tribute feature “An Extraordinary Life about local people who have died. She studied journalism at the College of St. Francis in Joliet, now the University of St. Francis.