A Central Kentucky camp for chronically and terminally ill children counts an up-and-coming NASCAR driver among its boosters.
Parker Kligerman, 22, drives the No. 77 Toyota Camry for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
For three to five races this season, the hood of Kligerman's car will be adorned with the logo for Camp Horsin' Around, a 191-acre site in Boyle and Mercer counties near Perryville.
Plans call for the logo to be on the car's hood — the No. 1 piece of ad real estate in NASCAR — when Kligerman races June 28 for the Feed the Children 300 at Kentucky Speedway near Sparta, where the camp plans to host a special fundraising event.
The camp is a year-round playground for children with cancer, diabetes, asthma, sickle cell anemia, kidney disease, AIDS and heart ailments. At the camp, they can participate in swimming, hiking and horseback riding.
"It's always great to help a great cause," Kligerman said in a telephone interview. "It's become one of those relationships where it's good to give back.
"A lot of people in NASCAR are grateful to be a part of it and understand what it took to get there, and how much of an opportunity they have and how privileged they are," he said. "So if there's a way to use the sport to give back, I think anyone would jump at the chance."
Kligerman drove trucks in 2012, and he won his first Camping World Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 6 with the Camp Horsin' Around logo on the hood. It was the first NASCAR win for Kligerman, who finished fifth in the truck series point standings.
This season, Kligerman is driving cars, and he finished sixth at Talladega. The logo was on the car's hood again, so the charity is "a lucky charm, I would say," said Bob Perona, Kligerman's driving coach.
Kligerman is currently sixth in the Nationwide Series championship standings.
A Connecticut native, Kligerman learned about the camp through Beth and Briggs Cunningham III, a Danville couple who contributed private dollars to his racing efforts. Kligerman has known the Cunninghams since 2008, and he learned the ropes of race driving by being part of Cunningham Motor Sports, which cultivates and prepares young drivers for the NASCAR ranks. Camp Horsin' Around is a favorite charity of the Cunninghams, and, by extension, of Kligerman. Briggs Cunningham and Kligerman are both from the Westport, Conn., area.
"He has done exceptionally well," Cunningham, 81, said of Kligerman. "He's extremely smart. He has very good rapport with his crew chief. He knows more about setting up a car and what he should do than a lot of the crew chiefs do."
The Horsin' Around logo gives the camp some visibility, Perona said.
"It gives them legitimacy and gives them some brand recognition, so people watching on TV or people at the race can see that and look them up and see what they're about," Perona said. "We're just trying to raise awareness for the camp."
If Kligerman were to lead the race for 15 minutes, that's the equivalent of what it would cost to buy ad time for 15 minutes on a Friday night on ESPN, said Brooks Neal, director of business development for Kentucky Speedway.
"That's probably upwards of six figures," Neal said. "And to tie them in to NASCAR, where there is a passionate fan base, and there are people who support products and causes because they're on the car of their favorite driver, that is hard to quantify, but it's very powerful at the same time. Getting the brand out there, especially on a national level, is very important. Nobody is going to give to something they don't know anything about."
The Kligerman-Camp Horsin' Around relationship introduces the camp to a whole new target audience, said Phyllis Cronin, president of the camp's board of directors.
"NASCAR has really come into its own, and so this is giving us an opportunity to reach a whole different sector of people," Cronin said. "People who follow Parker now have an interest in Camp Horsin' Around. We're trying to capitalize on an opportunity that's been given to us."
Cronin, who met Kligerman at the Daytona 500 qualifying trials, called him "a delightful young man." Kligerman has not been to the camp yet but said he hopes to visit in the off-season.
The camp now has three cabins, a pool, a basketball court, a climbing wall, a fish pond and two pavilions. A medical building offers on-site chemotherapy for children who need it. The camp can accommodate 60 campers and 20 counselors, Cronin said.
"Everything down there is paid for," Cronin said. The camp is working to get the last $800,000 of its $3.9 million capital campaign, which began in March 2008.
Meanwhile, Kligerman is looking forward to the June 28 Kentucky Speedway fundraiser and race.
"Kentucky is probably one of my favorite mile-and-a-half tracks," he said. "I like a race track that doesn't really remind you of anything else all year. It just has its own banking level. It's very bumpy and ... because of that, it really puts a premium on the race car driver. It's one of those places where, ever since I've gone there, I've been successful. I've either led a lot of laps, finished second or won the race. I can't wait to go back."
On June 28, Parker Kligerman will race at Kentucky Speedway near Sparta.
Camp Horsin' Around will have a tent at the event beginning at 3 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. race time, and Kligerman will be there to meet and greet those in attendance.
Each ticket allows access to the hospitality tent with food and beverages, plus a cash bar. There will be a guided pit tour and access to pit road.
The cost of a ticket is $100 if purchased before June 17 and $115 thereafter. To purchase tickets, call Camp Horsin' Around at (859) 381-9998.
Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @heraldleader