Hulk Hogan and Bubba help raise $100,000 for Plant City charity

PLANT CITY - Unity in the Community benefited from a well organized fundraiser that has Doug Gilmore and his wife, Marie, facing a pleasant dilemma.

Unity, a charitable organization that provides money and goods for charitable and service groups in the city, gained $100,000 from the fundraiser. The money came from the sale of tickets on a chance to win a 2011 “Hulk Hogan Edition” green-and-black Camaro SS from Stingray Chevrolet valued at about $40,000

The Gilmores, residents of FishHawk and winners of the Camaro, must answer the question: “Now what?”

In dispute is how much time will be spent in the driver’s seat between the husband, who bought the winning ticket, and his wife.

“There is plenty of room for Marie on the passenger side,” her husband quipped. “And that driver’s-side seat fits me just right.”

Marie Gilmore, editor of the Osprey Observer, said her husband still is stunned he won the car. Time will snap him back to reality, she said.

“I will force him to let me drive the car,” she said. “I’ll go to driving school to learn how to drive this car if I have to.”

The Gilmore’s sons, Troy, 6; and Cross, 10; will have to be content to ride as passengers for a while.

“Actually we are both stunned to have won the car in the first place,” Marie Gilmore said. “So many times you will buy a chance and never hear about it again. But this time, with 20,000 tickets sold, we got a call on Sunday morning telling us that we had won. It is amazing.

“The involvement of Stingray Chevrolet, partnering with Bubba the Love Sponge and Hulk Hogan, has turned this into a trifecta of excitement for us,” she said. “Everywhere we go people are thrilled to know my husband won the Hulk Hogan Camaro.”

Stingray Chevrolet owner/manager Steve Hurley hosted the presentation of the car at his dealership, 2002 N. Frontage Road, on March 25. About 2:30 p.m., the Camaro SS was driven onto the showroom floor as 200 people attending the event applauded.

Hurley introduced radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge, who drove the car; and former world wrestling champion Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea, riding shotgun, to onlookers.

Hurley, the 2011 president of Unity in the Community, helped raise $70,000 for the organization using the same format last year.

“I became involved with Unity in December of 2008 when my wife, Susan, and I moved from Texas to Plant City and opened the dealership,” Hurley said. “I have to credit the public, the people who bought the tickets, for making this event such a success. They recognize that this event is a continuation of what we did last year, and that all the proceeds go to charity.”

Hurley and Clem bought the fully loaded Camaro. Hogan offered his time, persona and a signature on the car’s dashboard. Together, with the support of the Florida Strawberry Festival, they staged the raffle for charity.

Clem, 44, used his radio and television contacts to promote the 2010 and 2011 events.

Bollea, 57, flew from an appearance on “American Idol” in Las Angeles to attend the event in Plant City.

Joyce Jordan Hooke, founder of Unity in the Community, said she was overwhelmed by the success of the fundraiser and what it will mean for her organization and the community.

“My goodness, words just fail me,” Hooke said. “I am so grateful. This donation will help us reach so many people who are in desperate situations. The loss of jobs in this economy is affecting more and more families. Because of this fundraiser we will be able to help, through our donations to other organizations, more families in dire need.”

“Steve Hurley, Bubba and Hulk Hogan put a fantastic team together to make this event a huge success,” Hook said. “The people that worked behind the scenes helped this fundraiser even bigger than last year.”

Hooke, who married Ed “Captain” Hooke, a Stingray employee in February, founded Unity in the Community in 1999.

“Unity started on a wing and a prayer,” she said. “We had no idea what we were getting into. I just felt that our volunteers — and there weren’t many — could help raise money for charitable organizations that helped people in need within Plant City. Little could I or anyone dream what Unity would grow into. We are an all-volunteer organization that supports many of the charities in Plant city. We also provide scholarships for high school students who need tuition assistance for college.”

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