DALLAS -- Three-year-old Gracie Straus was the belle of the 2011 Night of Fire cruise-in fundraiser earlier this month.
Little Gracie, who lives with her family in Dallas, was born with several serious medical issues and was chosen as the beneficiary of the event, held Aug. 5 in Salem.
"We felt loved and blessed, not only by family, but by complete strangers," Gracie's mother, Mandy Straus, said last week.
The family was presented with a check for the proceeds from the cruise-in, auction and food sales amounting to more than $6,200 on Aug. 17 at Adam's Rib Smokehouse in Salem.
Night of Fire organizers said the 2011 edition was the second-largest cruise-in and largest auction in the history of the event. About 2,500 people attended the cruise-in to admire the 189 registered vehicles.
Straus said Gracie had a blast at Night of Fire. She was able to meet drivers with drag racing teams and have her photo taken inside one of the super-powered cars. Straus said people stopped by to say "hi" to Gracie throughout the day and many gave donations on the spot.
"We were just so overwhelmed with the generosity," Straus said. "It was truly awesome."
Straus said the family may use the proceeds to help continue Gracie's intensive therapy, which her doctors say she will need until she is at least 5 years old, and other expenses related to her daughter's care.
Straus said the donation couldn't have happened at a better time, as the Willamette Education Service District just announced it will be ending some of the therapy programs in which Gracie participates.
Straus said the community's generosity will give them another chance to raise money for Gracie's care.
So many donations were offered before Night of Fire that the family wasn't able to put all of the items in the auction. The family will be holding a "Part Two" garage sale on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 16-17, to sell the remaining items donated for Gracie.
"People were just so generous," Straus said. "We were just so grateful for that."