For the last six years, as late September approached, the annual Beat the Heat Anniversary event has always been in the works. But not this year.
Since its initial launch on Sept. 22, 2007, an event that allowed and encouraged teens and adults to take dangerous backstreet drag racing to a more controlled and safe environment has flourished at the Countyline Dragway on Krome Avenue.
The last Saturday of September traditionally has served as the Beat-the-Heat, the Medley chapter’s date to celebrate another anniversary of “safe drag racing” and racing against the cops at the same time.
This year there will be no seventh anniversary event. Countyline Dragway has closed and the Beat the Heat, Medley Chapter, is lacking funds. And while while the Beat the Heat Medley chapter is technically still solvent, it’s on life support and Medley Sgt. Jose Ayala is heartbroken.
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It was he along with a select few seven years ago who worked hard to get Beat the Heat off the ground. And it was he and those same few who worked hard along the way to garner sponsorships and donations to keep it going.
“I guess the past couple of years is where the donations started to slow and not just donations it was also sponsorships as well,” Ayala said. “For whatever reason, people just weren’t interested in donating anymore, which is kind of tragic because it really is an awesome program that we had worked hard to build up.”
The Gazette met up with Ayala last week and he posed for a photo in front of a few of his race cars, almost as if they were his nurtured children.
“We were going along pretty strong and I’m just not sure if some of the businesses moved out of town or what, but I really can’t necessarily attribute it to being related to the economy,” said Ayala. “To be honest, we were going pretty good back in ’08 and ’09 when the economy was struggling and now it’s actually in recovery. It’s kind of sad because it’s an awesome program and I’d hate to see it fold.”
“I’ve got time, money, sweat, blood, tears, everything invested in this program. Makes it very difficult because I don’t want to see it go away and this could be the last year (of the Medley Chapter) if we don’t start picking up some sponsors.”
And as far as going after money to keep it going, Ayala always prided himself on never spending or asking for a dime of public money from the Town of Medley. With the exception of Forfeiture Money that the town’s police department has in its coffers (drug bust money, etc., that the department seizes and can only spend on police-related things through council approval) that Ayala leaned on a few times, everything Beat-the-Heat-related was financed either out of his own pocket or through private donations or sponsorships.
“I guess that’s most the difficult part of it,” said Ayala. “I guess a lot of people don’t understand that there are no tax dollars involved in this. Strictly donations, sponsorships and personal funds. Occasionally we would get money out of the police department forfeiture fund, which is not tax dollars.”
In addition to the money drying up, Ayala agreed that Countyline Dragway closing its doors last year hurt as well. The Medley Chapter was thus forced to move things south to Homestead Motor Speedway.
“That really hurt for sure,” said Ayala. “And Homestead was not an every week thing. It’s owned by NASCAR, which had all kinds of events always going on and, to be honest, we just missed the feel of that small hometown track and that was our home track. They (Countyline) treated us really well, just loved us to death and let us have our big annivesary parties every year. Here it’s our seventh anniversary and I have nowhwere to go with the cars and no money to have a party to celebrate with everybody.”
How to help
Anyone wishing to reach Ayala and offer their advice or financial assistance can reach him at 786-256-4294.