In the driver’s seat: Checkered Dreams gives kids like Grace Dixon a day at the races

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 19, 2009

By Cyntra Brown
For The Salisbury Post
Sue Ziegler has been touching children’s lives for years. President of Checkered Dreams, she gives chronically ill or disabled children between the ages of 6 and 18 a chance to live out their dream and experience the life of their favorite race car driver.
Every event features two children who receive a racing helmet, t-shirt, trophy, victory lap and the option of an on-track interview.
Families of the children also receive free admission and access to a buffet throughout the event.
May 30, at the East Lincoln Speedway, Grace Dixon was one of the lucky children who got to live out her dream.
“It was cool,” said Grace.
Grace was diagnosed with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, known as CdLS when she was born.
Grace and Gabe, another child with the CdLS, participated in the event.
“She still has her trophy and helmet sitting on the kitchen table” said Glenn Dixon, Grace’s father.
Grace enjoys wearing her helmet while riding in her mom’s convertible and couldn’t wait to share it with her class during “Show and Tell.”
Glenn thought the program was great and would recommend it to other families. He appreciated that it was all about the kids having a special night.
Grace hopes other children have the same experience she and Gabe did. She felt like a true race car driver and loved being in the spotlight.
“I hope other kids have the same thing like me and Gabe did and have fun” Grace said.
Sue was happy with the turnout as well. “Many kids love racing and race cars but have no means to see them up close and personal. It is our goal to give them that one day, to make all other thoughts go away…no doctors, needles, medicines, just for one day” she said.
Sue began Checkered Dreams in Pennsylvania in 2003. When the Zieglers moved to North Carolina in 2006, she decided to bring the charity closer to home.
They have had their share of ups and downs.
“Unbelievably, starting the charity…well actually getting the information to the families that could benefit from what we do, was unbelievably hard,” Sue said.
Due to privacy laws, many medical professions aren’t willing to help, fearing they will invade the children’s privacy.
“I have been working hard, through the media and telephone calls to anyone that will listen to set up a network here in North Carolina to help spread the word,” Sue said.
Sue and her family have always had racing in their blood. Her first date with her husband was seeing a race car he had recently sold. Her daughter Jackie, 19, has been racing since she was 9, and is currently pursuing her dream of driving for NASCAR. Ziegler son Jack, 15, has been on the racing path since 5 and is currently racing mini-sprints.
“Children need structure in the lives and racing has given it to my children. It has kept them grounded and focused,” she said.
Ziegler feels very blessed to have the opportunity to share her racing family with other children. She also is thankful for the help of sponsors such as The Sign Shop, Max Media and Denver Tire and Auto, all located in Denver, NC.
Checkered Dreams also has an online store where you can purchase everything from t-shirts to bibs, even apparel for your pets. They also own an Ebay store where they sell donated items from the events. All profits go to help the children. Checkered dreams is designated as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charity.
Checkered Dreams needs donations as well as support. If any race car drivers have old helmets, trophies or fire suits, Checkered Dreams can accept them. All helmets and trophies will be re-painted and re-plated with the participant’s names.
2009 Track Dates for Checkered Dreams events
July 11 and August 22 ó East Lincoln Speedway, Stanley
June 6 ó Hickory Speedway, Hickory
June 13 ó Concord Speedway, Concord
June 17ó Carolina Speedway, Gastonia
For more information, contact Sue Ziegler at 704-235-8948,
You can visit the Checkered Dreams Web site at