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Indy legend Mario Andretti surprises Allentown Boys & Girls Club with van

Indy 500 legend Mario Andretti drove up in a Lamborghini but quickly shifted to a van Thursday, surprising kids at the Allentown Boys & Girls Club on 13th and Turner streets. Driving the van behind a police escort, Andretti pulled into the parking lot between two children waving checkered flags. He was tempted, he joked, to put the pedal to the metal..“I was going to do a couple doughnuts here but I think we’ll probably do it later,” Andretti said.Allentown police Capt. Charles Roca (middle) gives the thumbs-up after being recognized by children at the Boys & Girls Club Thursday. He is pictured with Officer Jim Keiser (left) and Capt. Glenn Granitz. (Rick Kintzel/)Through a transportation grant from Bridgestone, the owner of Firestone stores — with one directly across from this Boys & Girls Club — the club received a seven-passenger 2020 Toyota Sienna to use for field trips and other activities. Andretti, who lives in Bushkill Township, has a long association with Firestone, which is IndyCar’s tire supplier.State Rep. Mike Schlossberg and Allentown Managing Director Joseph McMahon were among several community leaders who attended the event, and Schlossberg presented Bridgestone with an award to recognize the company’s commitment to community. As part of Bridgestone’s Driving Great Futures partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Firestone stores use donations from customers to purchase vehicles for 10 clubs a year and to cover maintenance for another 70 clubs. The Allentown’s Boys & Girls Club was one of the 10 to receive $35,000 to purchase a new passenger van.“I was thrilled to find out that the Boys & Girls Club of Allentown was selected to receive the grant this year,” said Jimmy Wagner, area manager for Firestone Complete Auto Care in Allentown.Glory Barbosa, an Allen High School senior and the Allentown club’s Youth of the Year for 2019, knows from experience that the van will be an asset to the organization. She recalls traveling to Sky Zone, IronPigs games and an art museum as a Boys & Girls Club member. Most trips are educational, she said, and give members a chance to explore opportunities around them. Anlies Perez, 8, of Allentown smiles as she waves the checkered flags while waiting for racing legend Mario Andretti to arrive Thursday at the Boys & Girls Club of Allentown. (Rick Kintzel/)“It’s really cool because a lot of kids wouldn’t be able to go to these places without this program,” said Barbosa, the spokeswoman for the five Boys & Girls Club branches in Allentown.Truth be told, the couple dozen kids on hand for the delivery were more excited to see the Lamborghini.Andretti — who took the checkered flag 111 times including at the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500 and four Indy Car National Championships — added that safe transportation is crucial for the Boys & Girls Club, which not only takes kids on field trips but gets them to sports practices and college tours. “With everything that’s happening in the world, this is one of the good things,” he said. “It’s one of the good things that makes you smile.”Several Allentown police officers came to see those smiles, but it wasn’t the first time they visited. Last week, the officers introduced themselves to the children and talked to them about careers in law enforcement, so most of them knew the officers by name. After the van was presented, the officers exchanged high-fives and fist bumps with the kids, who seemed more excited to be around the police than to be in the presence of a celebrity. The community leaders, however, took turns posing for pictures with Andretti. The racecar driver told the kids he might be back — to give the van an oil change.Clockwise, Jalen Truss, 9, Jhace Simmons, 9, Jayleen Pena, 10, and Cristal Ortega, 9, receive fist pump from Allentown Police Capt. Glenn Granitz, Thursday at the Boys & Girls Club. (Rick Kintzel/)Morning Call reporter Ashley Stalnecker can be reached at 610-820-6647 or
Source: Morningcall

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