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Changing lanes: Tyler Shipman car show seeks family to help

Tyler Shipman's Pontiac Fiero on display at the car show in Frazee. At a recent show, about half of the cars on display were Fieros. File photo

After eight years, the Tyler Shipman Memorial Car Show in Frazee is changing course — money raised will now go to a family with a child that needs help.

"We would like to sponsor a family each year with a child under 18 who has medical issues," said Tyler's mom, Daneele Shipman. It doesn't have to be cancer, it can be any serious medical problem, she added.

Even if a family has health insurance, it doesn't pay for everything, she said. There are driving and lodging expenses, and often parents need extensive time off from work that can mean lost wages.

Money raised from the first car show and rally ($1,600) went to the American Cancer Society. Since then the event has raised about $24,000 towards scholarships for Frazee High School graduates.

"My two youngest kids will graduate this year and next year, we're at a fork in the road and want to shake things up," Shipman said. "It's a good time for us to turn the corner and do something new."

So the family — Danieele, her husband, Jay, daughter Cassidy, 16, and son Carter, 18, are seeking suggestions or nominations for a qualifying family.

"The family's name would be protected for their privacy," Shipman said. "We would say in general what their situation is, and they could choose to be named after the car show is over," she added.

The family doesn't have to be from Frazee — they can live anywhere in the area. "We're not constrained to a certain area" she said. "We can expand our service area to really make this a focus blessing — we'll just see what fits and go from there."

To help out that community, as well as the family-to-be-helped that lives there, part of the donations will go towards gift cards for businesses in that community, and the rest will be in the form of a check written out to the family, Shipman said.

"We'd like to receive nominations by May 1," she added.

Include the family's name, address and contact information (for whoever is making the nomination) as well as "as much detail as possible regarding their situation and why they should be selected."

The annual car show and rally is held during the Frazee Turkey Days celebration the last weekend in July (July 28 this year) and the funds will be dispersed right after that, Shipman said.

"We are operating under the nonprofit umbrella of the Frazee Area Community Club — I am a longstanding board member — for those interested in the fine print," she added.

When Tyler Shipman was 18, he was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer, synovial sarcoma, which occurs most often in young adults.

Shortly after Tyler was first admitted to the hospital, he wrote a short note on an online message board named Pennock's Fiero Forum, where he talked to fellow Pontiac Fiero car lovers.

"I have an '86 Fiero GT that I've been slowly fixing up. Well now here I sit at the hospital with cancer, and they can't treat it, and not knowing how long I'll be here — they say could be till spring or longer or shorter, they don't know — I'm just trying to find some way to get it restored before I pass. I love this car."

That short, simple message drew an unexpectedly large response.

Over the course of the next few weeks, Tyler's Project gained more and more momentum, as local people and fellow Fiero lovers from all over came forward to help rebuild his car.

"The people who restored Tyler's car, a lot of them come back every year," Shipman said. "But a lot of new people show up every year, too."

The three-acre Shipman residence is about 10 miles east of Frazee on Highway 87, and every year their yard becomes "Camp Shipman," for people in town for the car show, she said. "We do hayrides, bonfires, pig roasts, we have a lot of fun — it's definitely a fun weekend," she said. "These people are Tyler's last gift to us."