Cruisin’ The Coast has been making car lovers’ dreams come true for 20 years, and not just the dream of cruising the Mississippi Coast for a week with other Cruisers and their cars.
Every year since 2011, Cruisin’ The Coast has offered people a chance to own a sweet ride for the cost of a $10 raffle ticket.
This year, somebody can drive away in a shiny red Mustang when the winning entry is drawn Sunday, the final day of Cruisin’.
The proceeds, in turn, help grant the wishes of children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses through the Make-A-Wish program.
In 2002, Cruisin’ The Coast started offering a chance to win a raffle car with the proceeds benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Sun Herald archives from 2002 indicate the first raffle car was a 1939 Chevy Master Deluxe four-door coupe.
“The average wish costs $3,000 to $4,000,” organizers said in 2002. “Our goal is to get at least $10,000.”
That first year was a success and the raffle was also held in 2004, 2007 and 2009 before it became an annual drawing five years ago.
“It’s a great program and a way for our organization to give back,” said Woody Bailey, executive director of Cruisin’ The Coast. “The raffle car allows us to work with Make-A-Wish and help.”
Bailey said Cruisin’ The Coast benefits numerous other charities through the 11 car clubs associated with the event.
“We pay (the 11 car clubs) based on the number of registrations, and they donate to Red Cross or their own designated charities,” Bailey said.
Last year’s raffle car, a 1967 Chevelle SS 396, raised $22,500 for Make-A-Wish, according to Cruisin’ The Coast.
“It has been successful,” Bailey said.
Early on in the program, he said, organizers were concerned whether they could make enough money to cover the costs of the cars, much less enough earn money to benefit Make-A-Wish.
“We’ve been able to continue ... to buy a vehicle and also give Make-A-Wish a significant donation,” Bailey said.
Organizers estimate they have raised $170,000 for Make-A-Wish over the years.
Every year on the final day of Cruisin’ The Coast, the winning raffle ticket is drawn. The winner, who does not have to be present, is notified.
Then, the next year’s raffle car is unveiled.
It is the culmination of an annual process that has long been in the making.
Organizers say Cruisin’ The Coast board members, office staff and Bailey meet and talk to auto advisory representatives from 11 car clubs to determine what kind of car they should offer as the next year’s raffle car.
“We are all the time looking for one that will fit the niche and fit the local market to help Make-A-Wish,” Bailey said. “We talk about various vehicles see how ones we’ve done in the past worked out.”
Pulling it together
When they’ve decided on a type of car — rat rod, antique, classic, street rod, hot rod, etc. — they get to work putting out feelers to find the car that matches their expectations.
While it is not typical, the organization has overseen the building process of a couple of cars through the years, contracting out various work. But mostly they find cars that are already complete and ready to drive.
When the car is unveiled, people can buy tickets all year long through the Cruisin’ The Coast office, 1907 Pass Road, Biloxi, and on registration forms at the cruisinthecoast.com. After advance registration has ended, tickets can be purchased only at Cruise Central during the event.
Ticket prices are one for $10 or three for $25.
This year’s model
This year’s offering, unveiled the last day of Cruisin’ 2015, is a customized and modernized red 1965 Mustang convertible.
As for next year’s model, organizers are tight-lipped.
“We’re excited about it,” Bailey said. “We think it will be a great addition to our raffle car line up. It is something of a different twist.”
Make-A-Wish is grateful
“The relationship Make-A-Wish has with the Cruisin’ the Coast organization is invaluable,” said Shellie Marengo Moses, South Mississippi director for Make-A-Wish. “They go through the trouble of finding a great car for the raffle each year.”
Moses said Make-A-Wish looks forward to Cruisin’ The Coast each year and meeting people who buy tickets as the charity sells tickets at Cruise Central throughout the week.
“This car this year is absolutely amazing,” Moses said of the droptop Mustang, and she said the ticket sales should help grant wishes.
“Every year, the cost of wishes goes up,” she said. “The (raffle car) program started by just doing one wish. Now there is enough money each year to grant three wishes. The average coast of a wish is $8,500.”
She said Make-A-Wish will be at the gates of Cruise Central in Gulfport throughout the week selling tickets until they give the car away Sunday.
“We are so grateful for them,” Moses said of the Cruisin’ The Coast organization. “They could choose any organization and for them to continue to do it for Make-A-Wish and our kids, it is invaluable.”
The 2016 Cruisin’ The Coast raffle car
1965 Ford Mustang convertible
▪ Tickets: One for $10, three for $25, are available a Cruise Central, Centennial Plaza, 200 E. Beach Blvd., Gulfport. Drawing will be Sunday
▪ Freshly built 289 c.i.d. powerplant, less than 1,000 miles
▪ New restoration, more than $50,000 invested in build
▪ Flaming River steering column
▪ Dakota digital gauges
▪ Painless wiring harness
▪ Custom interior and convertible top
▪ Lokar shift kit
▪ Interior and vinyl top by Performance Upholstery
▪ Front disc brakes
▪ Aluminum radiator with electric fan
▪ Need not be present to win
▪ All proceeds benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Cruisin’ The Coast.
Cruisin’ The Coast raffle cars through the years
2016: 1965 Ford Mustang Convertible
2015: 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle
2014: 1932 Ford Roadster
2013: 1979 Pontiac Trans Am (“Smokey and the Bandit” trim package)
2012: 1971 Chevrolet Camaro
2011: 1962 Chevrolet Impala
Before 2011, the raffle was held four times
2009: 1970 Chevelle
2007: 1932 Ford Coupe rat rod
No raffle car in 2005 because of Hurricane Katrina
2004: 1932 Ford Roadster Highboy street rod
2002: 1939 Chevy Master Deluxe four-door coupe
Cruisin’ The Coast officials estimate the raffle car program has raised about $170,000 for Make-A-Wish over the years.
Cruisin’ The Coast