Coan Engineering will host the Kokomo Cars and Cancer car show Sept. 18 to help raise funds for an employee battling cancer.
Mike Kelley, 38, has worked for Coan Engineering for nearly a decade and was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer early this year. Kelley is married to his wife, Mandy, and has two young daughters, ages 10 and 6. Proceeds raised from the Kokomo Cars and Cancer event will help the Kelley family deal with medical and cost of living expenses.
Along with a collection of cars, trucks and motorcycles, visitors can bid on racing and Monster Truck memorabilia in a silent auction, participate in a 50/50 raffle, enjoy a meal from the Struggle Bus food truck and music from a DJ.
Items that have been donated for the auction include a side panel from the monster trucks Maximum Destruction, autographed by Tom Meents, and Avenger, signed by Jim Koehle. There will also be multiple auto parts signed by NASCAR driver Tony Stewart and drag racer Leah Pruett, National Hot Rod Association World Champion (NHRA) Steve Torrence and memorabilia signed by six-time NHRA world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr.
The event is family friendly and there will be a bounce house and face painting for children. A kid’s choice vote will also take place, where children can vote for their favorite cars.
Winners in the car show will receive one of a kind trophies designed by Coan Engineering. There will be 15 categories to compete in.
Mike Kelley loves car shows and hasn’t been able to attend one since the pandemic began, his wife said.
Kelley graduated from Northwestern High School in 2001. He studied at Ivy Tech and worked at several garages and in manufacturing before landing his dream job at Coen Engineering.
“He’s been a motor head his whole life,” said his father, Tom Kelley. “We lived on a hobby farm and if you could put a wrench in his hand, he was the happiest kid in the world.”
“Ever since he was 16 he’s had some car he’s been working on and pimpin’ out,” said his sister, Annie Robb.
“I think he has owned close to 30 cars in his life,” Mandy Kelley said.
“He moved to cars, he told me, because he found farm machinery parts too heavy,” said his father.
Mike Kelley builds racing transmissions for Coan Engineering, which began in a Kokomo garage in 1976 and has grown into one of the premier engineering businesses in racing. Their components have been in winning cars in the NHRA and the National Muscle Car Association.
“[Coan Engineering] has helped us a lot through this. They’ve told him his job is there when he is ready to return to work,” said Kelley’s wife.
“Mike is an all-around great guy,” said Shay Coan, speaking on behalf of her husband, Dave Coan, who founded Coan Engineering. “You couldn’t ask for a better employee. He’s very dedicated to his job and the company. This is a small set back, but I’m positive he’s going to fight through this and bounce back. We are looking forward to having him back.”
Mandy Kelley said her husband makes friends with everyone he meets and is a loving father.
Kelley was dismissed when he first visited a doctor upon experiencing symptoms. He was told he was too young to have colon cancer, his wife said. The cancer was discovered a year later when his symptoms increased.
“Colon cancer is killing more young people than it has ever before,” said his father. “It’s alarming that the number of [young people] is rising, where my age, where screening is more prevalent, the numbers are going down. The secret is the screening. If they can catch it at stage one, you’ve got a 90% survival rate of being alive in five years.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, colon cancer symptoms include a change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, abdominal discomfort, weakness, fatigue and weight loss.
“If you have a history of it in your family, if you eat a lot of trashy processed food, if you have any symptoms, it’s a good idea to go to a health care professional,” said his father.
“And advocate for your own health,” added Kelley’s wife.
The Kelley family is thankful for the community support they have received since Mike’s diagnosis and said one of the small blessings during the ordeal has been growing closer as a family and with friends.
“It’s hard to find a family who hasn’t been touched by cancer anymore,” his father said. “When you’ve got all these people involved it’s like — cancer isn’t contagious but it effects everyone around it. That’s why I think this is a great idea for a party. We are celebrating not only Mike and praying that he gets better, but [people] have come together to support this thing and I think it’s because everyone can relate at some level.”
“We want to have the best show that we can,” said his sister. “We want to get a lot of cars out there for [Mike]. Even if you don’t have what might be considered a traditional show car, with so many categories, bring them out. You get a T-shirt — it’s included in the registration for the first 100 cars. We just want it to be a really good time for everybody.”
The family encourages participants in the car show to preregister at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/kokomo-cars-and-cancer-tickets-164911042367. Registration is $20. The event is free and open to the public with an option for goodwill donations.
Coan Engineering is located at 2277 E. North St. and will be open to the public during the event.