By John McGurl

Test driving a Ford may not sound like it could possibly help New Tampa’s Paul R. Wharton High raise funds for the school’s ongoing track resurfacing project, but Parks Ford of Wesley Chapel is holding an event to do just that. Parks is teaming up with Wharton to put on the “Drive One 4 UR School” event, the Ford Motor Company ‘s initiative to raise funds for valued high school programs across the country. Since the program’s inception in 2007 it has raised more than $10 million through nearly 3,000 “Drive One” events.

Ford dealers and high schools will attempt to raise a record setting $1 million this April, putting on more than 300 events throughout the nation. Dealerships will donate up to $6,000 each to their local high schools. The funds can be used to support any department that needs it. Wharton is planning on using the funds to help pay for the much needed resurfacing of their running track.

Parks Ford and Wharton will host their event at Heritage Isles Golf & Country Club off Cross Creek Blvd. on Friday, April 27, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

“Since the local school districts are facing so many budget cuts, it’s nice to be able to offer this type of support to the high schools and local community,” says Jennifer Cofini, the public relations manager for Parks Ford. Cofini adds that although Wharton isn’t the closest high school to the dealership, Parks Ford has worked with Wesley Chapel High in the past and still looks forward to working with Wiregrass Ranch High in the future.

For each valid test drive completed, Ford Motor Company will donate $20 to the participating high school.

For the “Drive One 4 UR School” event, Parks Ford will provide vehicles such as the Ford Focus, F150 truck, Explorer, Edge, Fiesta, Escape and Flex. Test drivers must be age 18 or older.

In conjunction with the test drives, Andy Ritter, father of two Wharton track team members, also is putting on a golf tournament and silent auction. “I’ve been so impressed with the sacrifice of Coach Wes Newton and his assistants that I had to do something to give back,” Ritter says. Items up for auction will include sports memorabilia, a weekend at a beach house and fine men’s watches.

Resurfacing the track will benefit more than the just the track team. The entire student body that must take physical education classes will be safer on a track that will no longer be missing chunks. Also Wharton will be able to host track meets, bringing economic growth to New Tampa.

For more info about the “Drive One 4 UR School” event, contact Jennifer Cofini at Parks Ford at 907-7800,. For info about the golf tournament, contact Andy Ritter at 716-2128.

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