Rac­ers for Autism raise $165k at Chili Bowl

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - SPORTS - BY JOHN RITTENOURE For the Tulsa World

Four years ago, 2014 Chili Bowl cham­pion Bryan Clau­son wanted to do some­thing spe­cial to ben­e­fit his teenage friend, Ben Wil­liam Hod­gin, and oth­ers like him who have autism. So, Rac­ers for Autism was formed and Clau­son held his first ben­e­fit auc­tion at the Cain's Ball­room.

It was an in­stant suc­cess.

"Bryan's goal was to start Chili Bowl week off with some­thing with a

bang and have a lot of fun, raise money and do some good," said Ben Hod­gin, fa­ther of Ben Wil­liam Hod­gin.

"We raised just over $37,000 and it dou­bled the next year. Bryan was real proud of that. From there it has just con­tin­ued to grow ev­ery year."

Clau­son died in a 2016 rac­ing ac­ci­dent, but Rac­ers for Autism has con­tin­ued. In its fourth sea­son, this year's event raised a record $165,375.

"It is a record," Hod­gin said. "We have had a ton of folks who joined in this year. There are a lot of things that have hap­pened and we cer­tainly miss hav­ing Bryan with us to be a part of the event.

"This year raised more then $15,000 from last year and we are look­ing to next year now."

Hod­gin is thank­ful for what Clau­son has done for his son and those with autism.

"We are happy we can con­tinue his (Bryan's) legacy and work," Hod­gin said. "This helps a lot of peo­ple.

"The Autism So­ci­ety has been the ben­e­fi­ciary from the be­gin­ning. Ev­ery bit of it goes back to them. It helps lots of chil­dren and adults like our son Ben, go­ing through the tran­si­tion into adult­hood. Bryan was a big part of his life."

In ad­di­tion to the auc­tion, a new event, the Break­fast of Cham­pi­ons, was held on Fri­day. Many past Chili Bowl cham­pi­ons and former In­di­anapo­lis 500 win­ner Johnny Ruther­ford were on hand to speak and sign au­to­graphs with fans who paid $100 a plate to at­tend. The money raised also went to Rac­ers for Autism.

"The Break­fast of Cham­pi­ons by Mark Stevens and his group was fan­tas­tic," Hod­gin said. "He worked with the Em­mett Hahn and Lanny Ed­wards fam­ily and they made it an of­fi­cial Chili Bowl event. They chose Rac­ers for Autism in Bryan's honor and we re­ceived $6,000 from that and there may be more to come.

"We are hop­ing we can con­tinue to grow."

Hod­gin says he is amazed at the out­pour­ing of the rac­ing com­mu­nity.

"So many folks that bid, spon­sors, fans and friends have been a part of this," he said. "The rac­ing com­mu­nity is in­cred­i­ble.

"They have ral­lied around our son. There is no bet­ter place on earth then be­ing at a race track for him."

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