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Revving Engines for a Cause

Norcross resident Dodger DeLeon has been running the Norcross Car Show for 15 years, with all funds going toward scholarships in the medical field.

Dodger DeLeon has owned about a hundred cars in his lifetime.

His all-time favorite, though, is his red '32 Ford, which he's had for 20 years.

"When you think about old cars, the '32 is where it all started, more of less," said the Norcross native. "It's the No. 1 car of all old cars."

DeLeon, 72, has made his car obsession into an annual benefit in Norcross every May. Every year for the past 15 years, DeLeon and a committee of 23 members plan out the Norcross Car Show to raise scholarship money for students in the medical field.

Hundreds of antique and notable vehicles are parked on the streets of Historic Downtown Norcross for visitors to come and see. Last year, around 10,000 people roamed the streets to see which cars win the best-in-show awards, eat from the food stands and bake sales, and participate in the silent auction and raffles.

The idea of the car show started in 1997 when DeLeon's 25-year-old daughter, Kristi, was injured in a car accident. DeLeon's group of friends, whom the town referred to as the Depot Gang, held a car show to raise funds for her hospital bills.

"Growing up with all those boys, they got together and did the first car show for her benefit," said DeLeon. They ended up raising $34,000.

Six months after the accident, however, DeLeon's daughter passed away, but he and the Depot Gang decided to keep the car show going. All funds would go to the Kristi Memorial Scholarship, which would help medical students since Kristi was studying to be a nurse before she died.

Since DeLeon's involvement in 1998, the car show has benefitted 74 students and raised more $225,000 for scholarship funds.

The show has also assisted in community projects such as restoring the at the Gwinnett County fire museum, donating funds to the Norcross Police Department and buying a braille computer for a young woman who needed it in order to study at Auburn.

"It's a lot of hard work and dedication to doing it, but it's a good feeling when it's over with because you can help these people," said DeLeon's wife, Liz, whom he married in 2003. She is just as involved in the car show as her husband, with duties from narrowing down elligible scholarship students to buying hot dogs for the food stand.

This year's show will have some new and different perks in addition to the usual food and cars. There will be $5 raffle tickets sold for a Primo Grill worth $1,700, and a completely finished 350 Chevrolet motor, donated by Nash Chevrolet in Snellville, will also have its own drawing. A silent auction with new items, including Gwinnett Braves Tickets and AVON products, will be available, and old-time music will be playing to place everyone back in time.

Also new this year is the free shuttle bus service, which will run from Hilton Atlanta Northeast in Peachtree Corners.

The 15th annual Norcross Car Show will be held Saturday, May 19, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in downtown Norcross. To donate to the Kristi Memorial Scholarship, contact Dodger and Liz DeLeon at 770-448-2664 and lizanddodger@bellsouth.net.

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