Tag Archives: car show

“Hotrod Breakout”…a Benefit That’s Been Places…

I’d like to share my thoughts regarding the many dedicated people engaged in the planning of a third car show/fundraiser for the Innocence Project of Minnesota. Compassionate individuals who’ve supplied hours of enthusiasm and selfless efforts on behalf of those wrongfully convicted have again created an exciting and unusual venue where tragic but uplifting stories emerge. The event is designed to resurrect reluctant voices that have been judged, criticized, condemned and ultimately silenced. Some of those voices appearing at this year’s event are: Wisconsin exonerees Audrey Edmunds, Michael Piaskowski and Mario Victoria Vasquez and Minnesota exonerees Michael Hansen and Koua Fong Lee.


 Joan Treppa (standing) next to exoneree Audrey Edmunds 

P1040223                                                             Exoneree Michael Piaskowski

P1040684                            Exoneree Mario Victoria Vasquez next to Johnny’s classic car

Mike HansonExoneree Michael Hansen

Exoneree Koua Fong Leeows_142302270498185

We will also hear from Brenda Kutska whose father-in-law is currently in prison for a crime he did not commit. Her views from the perspective of a family member is sure to stir hearts…

Two years ago we began to highlight the Innocence Project of Minnesota (IPMN). This non-profit organization bridges the financial roadblocks of those innocently caught up in catastrophic legal woes in dire need legal assistance. We’ve combined our talents to create awareness and to solicit funds to further their mission and it is our hope that this event will eventually become a significant source of revenue for them.

P1040786Banner created and donated by Budweiser

I salute my special friends who make up the planning team; Johnny and Linda Johnson, Rosemary and Pat Bonnett, Tom Erikson (aka: EricVonSon), Chuck Brost, Jesse Hoffman and all the others who work with us each year to help make this event a success. Special mentions go to Trudy Baltazar who collected and donated numerous items for prizes given out during the day, the Bonnett’s for their willingness to provide printed programs and the super amazing car awards. We thank Chuck Brost of ‘Tunes To Go’ for keeping us ontrack with our daily schedule, making announcements with added wit between appropriate era music for the event. Let’s not forget our good friend, exoneree Audrey Edmunds, who will again energetically hand out prizes!

P1040230Exoneree Audrey Edmunds congratulating a classic car winner

A final salute goes to the staff at the Project here in Minnesota for the important work they do all year long. Executive Director Heather Ring, Legal Director Julie Jonas, Staff Attorney Marie Wolf and all of the law students and paralegals who make up the IPMN team are to be commended for their diligence and selfless commitment to providing an invaluable service to those less fortunate in their time of need.

Because the IPMN it is a non-profit, our success in aiding them is critical because much of their funding is reliant on funds from general public doners. We must never forget that these funds benefit individuals who’ve been reduced to being labeled as thugs, murderers and rapists, who, in reality, were part of a civilized society, striving for the same wants and needs as the rest of us. They were once independently responsible for their own lives before fate sent them down a much different path.

P1040202Julie Jonas, her daughter and son, Sarah and Sam with MN exoneree Sherman Townsend (from a previous car show)

It is an honor to actively work on behalf of the wrongfully convicted, and we are again proud to present the one and only… (drum roll) ‘Hotrod and Motorcycle Breakout’; 3rd annual benefit for the Minnesota Innocence Project! We are furiously getting ready to host this exciting event on Saturday, August 8th 2015 from 9 am to 3 pm. We’ve adjusted our schedule a bit this year. Instead of conducting single speeches by exonerees and advocates, we are inserting two panel discussions; one at 11 am and the other at 1 pm. We believe this format will provide an informative and educated interaction for our audience.


Car Show Flyer - 2015

Flyers distrubuted at other car shows

Finally, I would like to commend Route 65 Pub and Grub owner Brad Slawson and Manager Kathy Sauvageau for providing mouth-watering refreshments during the day and Route 65 Classics (under new ownership as Unique Classics) owner Gene Kohler and General Manager Sue Stang who’ve enthusiastically provided their space free of charge each year. Both businesses have made generously donated additional funds to our cause and both are already getting ready for our big day!

P1040472Kathy and Brad setting up their booth 

We hope this event will be especially successful this year and that it will go down in history as the best car show ever…one that will help drive this wrongful conviction issue back into nonexistence!

Please join us or donate to the IPMN today!




The Relevance of Making Each Day Count…

I’m constantly reminded of the need to make each day count. Time is precious and lives can be altered in an instant, making every good day a gift. In my life’s mission, I think of this as respecting those who’ve lost years…decades in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. For these people their lives are no more valued in our society than those who are guilty. It’s shameful and inexcusable that innocents in prison have little hope for vindication.

With this said, I think of how meaningful it was for our five incarcerated guys in Wisconsin to learn that another fundraiser was being planned in their honor. Our second annual Hotrod and Motorcycle Breakout benefit for the Innocence Project of Minnesota (IPMN) was held on Saturday, August 2, 2014. These men look forward to it even though they cannot be there. They are touched just knowing that others support them.


Logan directing the classic cars onto the lot

This year, the number of classic cars tripled from 34 last year to approximately 100 this year. We estimated about 500 people came-more than double last year’s total. We raised $2000.00 despite reducing the entry fee for classic vehicle owners in half, from $10 to $5. It was exciting to see the colorful parade lining up almost immediately after we showed up-an hour before we officially opened. We had again succeeded in creating a unique experience full of laughter, tears and important awareness.

We didn’t know how much interest would be generated this year because we know the topic of wrongful convictions is a sensitive one that gets little attention in today’s society. But at these events I often come across people who’ve experienced an incident similar to a wrongful conviction. I’m always amazed at how many are willing to share their personal stories.They offer thoughts about what we are trying to accomplish and we see many of them putting money into our donation barrels.


Kathy Sauvageau

I’m highlighting the sponsors who helped to make this event possible. Gene Kohler, owner of Route 65 Classics in Ham Lake, Minnesota and General Manager, Sue Stang, who has enthusiastically hosted this event both years. Their support afforded us access to a great venue. We also gained a new food vendor this year. Brad Slawson Sr. and Jr., owners of Route 65 Pub and Grub in East Bethel, MN supplied delicious food and refreshing spirits. They also initiated sponsorship from Budweiser who supplied us with two 4’ x 8’ banners for advertising purposes.Thanks also to Kathy Sauvageau who manages things at the bar/restaurant for her assistance in organizing their participation and helping to serve food that day.


Chuck Brost, owner of Tunes to Go in Spring Lake Park, Minnesota was his energetic witty self while providing musical entertainment and trivia throughout the day. Christi Williams, owner of Grinkie Photography in Minneapolis, MN documented the day by taking wonderful photos and promoting them on social media. She added a splash of the “Grinkie” style by inviting men and women dressed in apparel from a bygone era well suited to the sea of amazing classic vehicles. The fine folks at Dahlke Trailer Sales in Fridley, MN donated and set up a large platform for the second year in a row for our use as a stage.


Attorney Steve Kaplan with Exec. Dir. Amy Tomczyk

Speakers for the day included: Amy Tomczyk, interim Executive Director for the IPMN. She shared statistics regarding wrongful convictions and the important work that is being done by the organization. Steve Kaplan, the lead Attorney on our Wisconsin Monfils case shared aspects about this arduous case and his gratitude for the day’s event. Trudy Baltazar who advocated on behalf of Koua Fong Lee in his exoneration case from Minnesota gave a speech that left the crowd stunned as she covered aspects of that case. Our Wisconsin exoneree Michael Piaskowski again traveled over from Green Bay, and brought both Denis Gullickson and John Gaie-co-authors of the book, The Monfils Conspiracy. Both Mike and Denis shared their unique perspectives on this case.


Trudy Baltazar addressing the crowd

Also from the Green Bay area: A heartfelt thanks and tribute goes to Clayton and Brenda Kutska, their son Mathew and Brenda’s Mom Claire; our esteemed guests and family members of one of our five innocent men. They had come to help us with last minute details and to witness the support. A dear lady and friend, Shirley DeLorme, who hosts the monthly FAF (Friends and Family) meetings in Green Bay, was a wonderfully cheerful addition to our event.


Chuck Brost, Rosemary Bonnett and Logan handing out prizes

Lastly, I’d like to also acknowledge appreciation for these extraordinary people; Rosemary and Pat Bonnett and Eric Von Son, who supplied trophies, flyers, programs and prizes.

I’d like to share some final thoughts about those who spend time complaining about what is wrong with the world rather than taking action and doing something about it. I’d ask you to take a day, look around you and focus energy on remeding the plight of others less fortunate. Don’t wait until you are faced with a personal crisis of your own. See how lucky you are. Then realize how your words and actions can effect those around you. Use this understanding to decide whether or not you can make your life better and maybe make a difference in someone else’s. This will certainly open your eyes to the importance of making each day count.

“Hotrod Breakout”…A Benefit That’s Going Places…

I’d like to share a few thoughts about some of my dedicated friends; Rosemary and Pat Bonnett, Johnny and Linda Johnson, Chuck Brost, Jesse Hoffman and Eric Von Son for their enthusiastic efforts to assist me in helping those who’ve been wrongfully convicted. Their fervor to benefit those whose voices have been judged, criticized, condemned and ultimately silenced makes me proud to call them friends.

Last year, we all began to promote an organization known as The Innocence Project-a non-profit that represents the wrongfully convicted and helps alleviate the financial burdens they face. We combined talents to create a unique way of soliciting funds to further their mission. Our hope is for this event to become more popular over time and be a significant source of revenue to aid in freeing innocent victims.

The success of the Innocence Project is crucial because of the few and very humbling options these victims have which forces them to rely on the generosity of complete strangers. We must not forget that they have been unfairly criminalized as thugs, murderers and rapists who used to be more accurately seen as an integral part of civilized society-striving for the same amenities in life as all of us do. They were independent and responsible for their own lives. They lived and loved as we do before fate sent them down a much different path. To whatever end awaits them, achieving help from the often overstretched, under funded Projects takes a miracle.

Alas, in the wake of this dismal subject comes action and exciting details of an event we put together last year that we will repeat again this year. We’ve named it, Hotrod Breakout-a classic car show/benefit with proceeds going to the Innocence Project of Minnesota. We are currently getting ready to host our second annual to be held on Saturday, August 2nd 2014 from 9 am to 2 pm. Last year we received many donated services and prizes, etc…but this year we are looking for sponsors to help cover costs that will give our event more exposure, make it much more enjoyable and attract even more attendees.

I will disclose more details soon but wanted to include in this piece, mention of the place hosting our event. Route 65 Classics in Ham Lake, Minnesota, “…is dedicated to the classic car and motorcycle enthusiasts looking for the car they “once had” or their dream car.” They answered our prayers last season by providing their location at no charge, and in addition, they made a large monetary donation to our cause. They’re providing the space again this year and have bridged connections to other businesses also willing to participate. We hope this event will be especially successful this year and that it will go down in history as the best car show ever…and one that will drive this wrongful conviction issue back into nonexistence!