The passion that binds the Subaru performance community extends far beyond cars, mods and racing.
If you know the Subaru performance community, you know two things: First, Subaru enthusiasts love their cars. Second, they love to give back. Whether it’s banding together to make a wish come true or a star driver launching an event for cancer research, the passion for helping out is as white hot as the love of performance. While enthusiasts take part in many activities to lend a hand, both formal and informal, we think three recent stories help illustrate the spirit of good will that defines the community. After all, it’s the bonds between people from all walks of life that drive Subaru performance.
For 15 years, Subaru enthusiasts have been touring the tristate region of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania on the 48HRS of Tristate Charity Drive. Their goals are to get behind the wheel, meet fellow enthusiasts and raise money for charity.
Bringing about 60 Subaru owners together annually, the 48HRS of Tristate Charity Drive has, to date, raised $330,000 for the NYS World Trade Center Relief Fund, various cancer research organizations and, most recently, Make-A-Wish®. Participant registration fees are donated to the year’s designated charity, and each participant raises additional donations.
Participants in the 48HRS of Tristate Charity Drive.
Thanks to a partnership with Make-A-Wish New Jersey, a young man named Richard from Ocean County, New Jersey, realized his life’s dream and spent a week in Italy with his family. “When 48HRS of Tristate Charity Drive approached us, we were honored,” says Tom Weatherall, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish New Jersey. “Subaru of America has been a national partner of Make-A-Wish America for many years, so it’s a natural fit.”
Make-A-Wish New Jersey is a “must visit” along the drive route, says 48HRS of Tristate’s Ted Drotleff. “When adults take the tour, they need to put themselves in a kid’s mindset.” Thinking like a kid, and acting like an adult, is good advice for anyone, at any age.
The Ultimate Mod
About a decade ago, Isaac Katz was an enthusiastic intern at Subaru of America, and when it was time for him to move on, his co-workers kept in touch. Years passed, and Katz’s life took an unexpected turn: He was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a rare, connective-tissue disease that affects every function of his body. Currently, the syndrome has no cure.
“Just putting a shirt on in the morning risks dislocating my shoulders, ribs, collar bones, neck and throat,” says Katz, now 30. He takes medication so he can chew and swallow food. Sometimes he can’t sleep for days or, conversely, he sleeps 20 hours straight. His five senses have intermittently stopped working, and he experiences debilitating pain daily. Updates on Katz’s condition left his former co-workers devastated.
For practicality’s sake, Katz swapped his beloved BRZ for an Outback XT. The new vehicle would be easier to get in and out of, and more comfortable on long drives to doctor’s appointments and hospital visits. It had room for a wheelchair and a service dog. It was going to take some work to make it just right for Katz, though. The problem was that he was short on resources.
That kind of salt-of-the-earth good-heartedness is more infectious than any disease I’ve ever had.
Enter the Subaru family. In a wave of support led by Nicole Riedel, Katz’s co-worker from his internship days, Katz suddenly had his own “mod crew.” Made up entirely of Subaru employees, the crew was ready to donate labor, space, equipment and parts. Working together, they transformed Katz’s Outback into the perfect vehicle for him. “More than anything, I think this is a story about friendship and how cars bring people together,” says Riedel.
Katz completely agrees. Daily life continues to be a profound challenge, but he has his wife, parents and Subaru friends in his corner. “I still feel like the luckiest, most-blessed person in the world to have such awesome friends, who I know wouldn’t hesitate for a second to do this for the next person in need of a smile,” he says.
Isaac Katz’s modified Outback XT Photo: Garrick Goh
Race for Research
David Higgins has dominated the Rally America championship eight times, including six consecutive victories with Subaru Rally Team USA. But he started his racing career in karts at just 10 years old.
So when Higgins’ father-in-law lost his cancer battle in 2016, Higgins turned to what he knows best. His inaugural Olympus Rally Invitational Charity Karting event launched in Shelton, Washington. Through a raffle and seat bids to race, the event raised close to $8,000 in support of pancreatic and childhood cancer research.
Drivers go head to head in David Higgins’ Olympus Rally Invitational Charity Karting event. Photo: © Aaron Kathman, subaru.com/rally 2017
“He was just a normal guy and a great father,” Higgins says about his late father-in-law. “The event was not so much about him as a person, or remembering him, but because cancer affects everyone at some point. It was horrible not being able to do a thing to help, so that’s when I decided I wanted to put on a fundraiser to help others.”
Twelve teams with four drivers each took part in the two-hour endurance race, with every driver taking a turn at the wheel. And if you think Higgins took it easy on the other drivers, think again. “No way!” he says with a laugh. “It was wet at the start of the race, and I lapped all the other drivers during my session.”
Want to test your skills against Higgins? He plans to make this an annual event, so your bid could land you in the driver’s seat.
Do you have a story of the Subaru enthusiast community coming together to help out? Tell us about it.