ELBURN – To help keep his mind off a cancer diagnosis, South Elgin resident Keith Kmieciak spent months turning a stripped 2004 Ford Police Interceptor into a fully equipped squad car that serves as a memorial vehicle dedicated to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Kmieciak – whose sons and son-in-law work in law enforcement – said the vehicle made its public debut at the Fourth of July parade in South Elgin.
In addition to collecting donations for the memorial fund, he raises money by selling copies of "Heroes Behind the Badge," a documentary he plays on a 42-inch TV in the trunk.
Saturday, Kmieciak – whose last scan showed he is cancer-free – displayed the vehicle at the seventh annual Charity Car and Motorcycle Show at the Martin Family Farm in Elburn.
Although the show didn't start until noon, morning rains affected the number of registered cars, said Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez, who presented the event with Kendall County Sheriff Richard Randall.
Without the rain, Perez said, the show likely would have had double the turnout, which he placed at about 90. Past shows have ranged from 85 to 246 cars, he said.
Perez, whose term ends in 2014, said he hopes the next sheriff continues the event. The car show not only lets residents see members of law enforcement in a different light, he said, but it also draws the community together for a good cause.
This year, proceeds benefited the Fox Valley United Way. Perez hoped to raise $10,000, he said, noting the event generates a lot through sponsorships.
"We'll do OK," he said.
Car show participant Ray Luttrell had his own goal Saturday. The Sandwich resident said he lost his 22-year-old son, Matthew, to suicide in April and is talking to everyone he can, especially children, about suicide prevention.
"I don't want a parent to go through what me and my wife are going through," he said. "It devastates the people around you."
Saturday, he propped a large, framed photograph of him and Matt against the 1967 Ford Galaxy 500 they restored together. On it, he attached a handwritten note that explained his loss and invited people to talk with him.
Early into the show, he said a dozen people had already talked with him, and only one conversation was about his car. He gestured toward a group of children and said he saw them read his note.
"If I can just save one," he said. "That's why we go to the car shows."