Xan Oakley // PCRI Educational Writer

When you hear “Vintage Kart Grand Prix,” I know you might not be thinking “prostate cancer.” In early November, my co-worker, Lindsay Meggers and I received many surprised looks when we represented the PCRI at the 2016 Grand Prix in Scottsdale, Arizona. We experienced the same surprised reactions at a Vintage Kart event in Pebble Beach, back in August. We were invited to both events by Fabio Almeida, MD, a PCRI board member and the Medical Director of Phoenix Molecular Imaging (PHXMI). He invited us to help educate men on prostate cancer, which is his great passion! But how does his mission to educate have anything to do with cars?

I remember thinking that very thing at the Pebble Beach show. Both Lindsay and I were overjoyed by the opportunity to represent PCRI and were more than happy to educate attendees about prostate cancer. However, I couldn’t help but think: What kind of looks are we going to get? Are men going to be receptive? As women, we allow ourselves to talk about things like breast cancer openly. But prostate cancer, tends to be a private subject for men. So, the quesion was, how can we put men at ease? Dr. Almeida’s answer: Cars. An enjoyable setting with a different focus of interest.

The idea unfolded when Dr. and Mrs. Almeida met with Ron Kotlo , the owner of Vintage Kart Co., a company that makes Vintage Mini Racers honoring cyclecars of the past. Their cars are artfully crafted, easily drivable, and immensely fun! After some discussion and a great vision, the ‘prostate cancer awareness’ cars were born. The idea works. The cars capture everyone’s imagination. Everyone stops and stares.

Dr. Almeida thinks big. “Let’s not just settle for showing o pretty cars. Why not enter our cars into the race?” So that’s exactly what Dr. Almeida did.

The Grand Prix of Scottsdale was stylized as a 1920s Gatsby themed event. All the women were adorned in ornate headpieces, flapper dresses, pearls, and ruby lips. The men donned spectacular vintage suits and top hats. Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, and many others sounded over the speakers as all the dolled up people danced their hearts away. The prostate cancer awareness karts displayed the PCRI logo, along with the logos of other prostate cancer organizations. These cars were perfectly placed close to the stage throughout the entire event. What an icebreaker! What a con- versation piece! Just like that, we had people talking, raising awareness for prostate cancer.

The conversations were incredible. Even people who had never dealt with prostate cancer thanked us for their raising awareness and for educating people about the disease. Many of the men never had a PSA test. Many didn’t even know what PSA stood for! Men came to Dr. Almeida’s booth for the no-cost PSA tests that were being provided. The opportunity to share and educate on such a crucial subject was something we didn’t even feel we should be thanked for; we just felt blessed to have the opportunity to help. Almost every casual conversation led to, “So, what do you do?” This gave us many opportunities to talk about PCRI, our passion in raising awareness, our drive in helping people find the best treatment options, and the importance of regular PSA testing.

On the day of the Grand Prix, all 40 teams were in a competitive, racing mode. Everyone with one objective: to win the race. There are 4 heats in a Grand Prix. Each heat is supposed to last for 45 minutes, and the race is so intense that it’s hard to keep up with everyone’s times. Times are deducted for all sorts of offenses on the track, but each team keeps faith that their team is in the lead. We, of course, did the same. When the fourth heat came to an end, our team’s drivers (two of which were professional race car drivers) said they thought we might have won. I was so overwhelmed by the excitement, the Arizona heat, and the intense race environment, I couldn’t keep track either. It came down to meeting at the finish line to find out. That’s when the glorious moment came; it was announced that our team won! The car built for prostate cancer awareness won the Grand Prix!

The PCRI commends Dr. and Mrs. Almeida and their team for their amazing win and for developing such an imaginative idea to raise awareness about prostate cancer at high profile events across the nation. They have created an unprecedented opportunity to share invaluable information with thousands of people. Vintage cars are opening a gate to men who would have otherwise been passed by. Thank you Dr. and Mrs. Almeida for your amazing vision, your wonderful success in winning the Grand Prix, and for all your hard work!