Car show at Cowtown will give the Arc a lift

Like all parents, Carl Fry's priority in life is taking care of his daughter.

But it becomes an overriding lifelong concern when a child is born with Down syndrome, as Fry's daughter, Kim, was.

"We're not going to live forever," Fry said this week. His daughter, Kim, is 33.

One of the main ways he cares for her is to help the community organization that has enriched her life the Arc of Sedgwick County.

Fry is also a car guy who hit on an idea eight years ago for a way to extend the Arc's reach, spread the word to help other families like his, and make other car guys — and gals — happy.

The combination takes place Sunday as the dusty streets of Old Cowtown are transformed by shiny chrome in the vintage and classic horseless carriages of the Arc Benefit Car Show. Gates open at noon.

Elvis comes back every year for the show (1 p.m.), and this year, Eagle fashion writer Bonnie Bing will pair outfits for all ages with specific cars for a fashion show (2:15 p.m.).

"This is the first time somebody asked me to sort my database by color," Fry said, and his wife's pink 1959 Nash Rambler — unusual at a car show — was a natural.

Other activities will include the Jefferson School dancers and the Dixie Lee Dancers in the saloon, bingo in the Southern Hotel, a silent auction in the tea room and an Old West gunfight at 3 p.m. Food vendors will be along Main Street. Ticket prices will be $1 off regular Cowtown admission.

The car show, with 250 to 300 cars, has expanded over the years, along with the Arc, outgrowing Century II and Exploration Place and finding a hospitable spot at Cowtown last year. Cars from Kansas and surrounding areas will be on display.

Money raised at the car show goes into the Arc's Legacy of Hope endowment. A percentage of the endowment is used each year to meet the needs of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities and their families.

The Arc has always responded to the needs of its families, executive director Kevin Fish said. When the Arc started in 1953, most of the families had young children, and they formed the state's first preschool for children with disabilities. It went on to become Rainbows United.

As the children grew, another development was the first sheltered workshop in the state offering them job opportunities. It is now KETCH.

The latest programs provide financial and legal help for families who want to set up guardianship for an adult child who has a disability, and a wellness program to teach clients what's healthy for them when they move into a group home. Typically, that switch causes people to gain an average of 30 to 40 pounds, Fish said.

The wellness program will also teach workers at the group homes, many of whom are college students, what's healthy.

While 3,000 people with developmental disabilities are being served in the county, there are more than 5,000 who could be using the Arc's services, Fish said. So an outreach worker has been hired to take the word to churches, civic groups and beyond.

Fry and parents like him do their own outreach any chance they get. He has attended 22 car shows this year, for example, setting up a booth and selling chances to win a custom-pinstriped, food-stocked deep freezer for a $1 donation, and spreading the word about what the Arc does.

"My mission is when I die I don't want my daughter to end up in an institution," Fry said. "I want her to be self-sufficient in the community and not dependent on anybody. That's a tough job.

"And the Arc has provided an opportunity for my daughter and her friends to do things you never would have thought about 15 years ago ... a lot of things normal kids do."