By ED FRANKS
All day Saturday, cars filtered into the parking lot at Starlight Diner on Pine Island Road and by noon several hundred people had come to celebrate Starlight Diner's Grand Opening Celebration and the Beacon of H.O.P.E.'s fundraising drive. Nearly 100 antique and custom cars filled the east side of the parking lot.
The Beacon of H.O.P.E. table at Saturday’s fundraiser at the Starlight Diner’s grand opening celebration on Pine?Island Road.
Doug Wall and his wife, Janet, made the trip from North Naples as part of the Gulfshore Mustang Club. The Gulfshore Mustang Club of Southwest Florida is a nonprofit, volunteer group of Mustang enthusiasts, chartered by the Mustang Club of America. They are dedicated to the heritage, restoration and preservation of Mustangs.
"My wife Janet actually bought the tickets," Doug Wall said. "We have a 2013 Mustang here today and are members of the Mustang Club. The Beacon of H.O.P.E. is a great organization and we are happy to be a part of this event. I understand the raffle brought in $536 and we won $268. We donated the $68 to the Beacon and will go home with $200. From the turnout here today I would say this is a very successful event."
Bill Uhl, co-owner of Starlight Diner, was very pleased with the turnout.
"We have something like 90-plus cars here from Gulfshore Mustang Club," Uhl said. "These guys not only have a passion for their cars but are here to help us raise money for the Beacon of H.O.P.E. The Shriner Clowns were fantastic this morning and we've already seen some really great postings on social media and Brylcream has everyone singing in the restaurant.
"Going in I was a little concerned about the turnout with the season being over and all but I have to say this turned out fantastic," he continued. "And, of course, I have to say Jim McLaughlin has worked so hard to help us bring this together."
"It's been a great day," McLaughlin, a Beacon of H.O.P.E. board member, said. "The Mustang Club's generosity in giving us the 50/50 raffle raised more than $300 for the Beacon of H.O.P.E. and the Starlight Diner's generosity in bringing us in on this event in the first place really made our first 'off-island' fund-raiser a great success. People have been just so generous today... the donations by buying the 50/50 raffle tickets. It's been a great day for the Beacon of H.O.P.E. The funds raised today will feed kids, and help people in need."