Indy 500 Tickets Turn Into $500 Donation For Local Organization

By Elsie Walker

Norman Worth is a magician, of sorts.   The president of radio station WRNJ, in Hackettstown, was able to turn two tickets to this year’s INDY (Indianapolis )  500 into a $500 donation to The Coalition for Healthy and Safe Communities, plus enable a father and son to have  a once in a lifetime shared experience.   Of course, all magicians have their assistants and in this case, Worth’s assistance came from people who just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

The Indy 500 is the premier event in auto racing.  It is held over Memorial Day weekend and tickets are highly sought after.  Tickets to the 2016 race were a particularly difficult commodity to get as this was the 100th anniversary of the event.  Peter Kromer of SASCO Insurance Services Hackettstown was one of those lucky people who got tickets to the event and hotel room reservations.  He had anticipated taking his two nephews with him, but then close to the date, things changed

“Both had school graduation events and couldn’t make it,” explained Kromer. “The tickets and hotel room were all pre-paid so I didn’t want to see them go unused. I called Norman to see if he knew anyone who might be interested in going on short notice.”

Worth noted that the tickets were finish line, high up premium seating.

“He [Kromer] just wanted someone to go to enjoy the experience,” said Worth..

Worth immediately thought of a plan. He’d use an announcement on Russ Long’s WRNJ radio show to find a home for those tickets.  Worth explained that what followed was made up on the air.   Given the timing involved, he didn’t think a contest was the way to go.

“This was Tuesday and the race was that Sunday,” noted Worth.

The first person to call in would get the tickets and hotel stay.  Of course, the person would have to find his or she own way to Indianapolis.  Also, it would be suggested that the person who got the tickets make a donation to a local charity,

At just that time, frequent listener and Glen Gardner resident, Wayne Cabot of WCBS Newsradio 880 was on the road listening to Long’s show.

“When I heard Russ announce the Indy tickets, it was like my radio was talking just to me,” said Cabot. “My son and I tried since last year to make the trip to the 100th Indianapolis 500, but tickets and lodging were about impossible. So I pulled my car to the side of Route 31 and texted him to make sure he could go. He replied within seconds: “YES!!”

Cabot immediately called into the station and was told he got the tickets.  When he asked Worth to what organization he should make a donation, Worth thought about an event at which he was to be MC/presenter at that night, honoring Warren County students in grades four through 12 who were winners in the third Annual Poster Contest run by The Coalition for Healthy and Safe Communities Coalition and the Warren County PTA Council.

Community Coalition Coordinator Mary Jo Harris explained that the volunteer organization, “is a program of the Family Guidance Center of Warren County.  The Family Guidance Center provides mental health and substance abuse services to the residents of Warren County.  Specifically, the coalition is a grassroots effort to provide prevention strategies to reduce the use and abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs (marijuana, heroin, prescription drugs and new and emerging drugs) across the life span.”

Worth noted the organization doesn’t have much when it comes to be budget.

“They’re trying to do more with less,” said Worth.

Cabot wrote out a check to the organization for $500.   Worth surprised Harris by announcing the donation that night at the poster event.

“I could not have been more surprised when Norman was addressing the audience and suddenly announced the donation of the tickets,” said Harris.  “You could have knocked me over with a feather.  It spoke volumes that Norman Worth and the WRNJ radio station recognize the hard work and commitment of the many volunteers that make up the coalition.  I may be the coordinator, but the people who make up the membership of the coalition are the true driving force behind the work.”

Harris went on to explain how the funds can be used.

“With the public health epidemic of heroin and the abuse of prescription drugs, we will be able to purchase NARCAN kits for trainings and possibly replace NARCAN kits used by law enforcement when an officer saves a life using NARCAN,” she said.

Harris explained that law enforcement and EMS administer NARCAN to an individual if they have indicators leading them to believe a person has overdosed using heroin. “Naloxone is safe and effective; emergency medical professionals have used it for decades,” Harris said.

The organization received its donation; however, the story of the tickets doesn’t end there.

Cabot had thought that his son, Adam, a recent college graduate, would want to go to the INDY 500 with a friend.  However, Adam said it should be a father-son experience.  That experience would include watching a thrilling finish.

“Indy was a surprise, a cosmopolitan outpost in the Midwest cornfields where everything is about racing. We biked from the hotel to avoid the jam of 350,000 race fans, and we biked around the massive infield to take in the human spectacle. My son did the math: one in every 1,000 Americans was there. The race itself had a stunning ending, with the winner out of fuel on the last lap, coasting across the finish line.”

Not only the excitement of the race, but the chance to share the event with his son, meant a great deal to Cabot.  “We are so grateful to have enjoyed that only-in-America, father-son weekend.”

In the end, “everybody won,” Worth said.  Kromer got that good feeling of giving and expecting nothing in return.  Harris got funds for her organization, and Cabot got to enjoy some classic father-son time with his son.

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