On the last Friday of every month, the parking lot next to the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute is packed with shiny Lamborghinis with rising doors, classic Dodge Chargers equipped with neon under car light kits and BMWs with intricate body decals at the University Car Events’ (UCE) monthly meeting.
But the event is more than just car enthusiasts bonding over cars.
The group meets are a way for the club to collect donations for various charities. Previously, the group has worked with charities such as Shriners Hospitals for Children and Ronald McDonald House Charities.
“We are just charitable people,” UCE officer and USF alumnus Cesar Alayon said. “We do this as a hobby mainly. Most of us were students here. Most of us here just enjoy having a car. We enjoy having a crowd. If we got something this big, why not do something with the community?”
Normal turnout for the meetings is about 300 cars, Alayon said.
At their December meet, however, cars lined up to Florida Avenue trying to enter. An event originally planned to collect donations for Toys For Tots, due to actor Paul Walkers death earlier that week, the organization also collected monetary donations for Reach Out Worldwide, Walker’s disaster relief charity.
Among the exotic cars and sport bikes, a yellow Penske truck arrived to transport over 500 toys that were collected as a donation to Toys for Tots. The amount of donations was enough to fill the truck’s entire storage space, and $700 was collected for Reach Out Worldwide.
In January, the club held a shoe drive for a church in Orlando.
Despite the big name cars on the block, all are welcome to the monthly events that draw guests from across the state.
“We don’t discriminate with cars,” Alayon said. “A lot of these other car shows say that the cars have to be clean or the cars have to be a classic. We don’t care if you drive a Prius. Just bring it over. We appreciate all forms of cars. We like to just celebrate car enthusiasm.”
Charles Sarvis of the Tampa Bay Mazda Club has been to the UCE meets for the past year and brings out a group of Mazdas to display. His section of the events include various Mazda models with custom body kits and colored rims.
The different array of cars and vendors bring him to these meetings, he said.
“As (a member of) a Mazda club, it’s nice to see other cars out here,” Sarvis said.
Along with the car enthusiasm, UCE president Conrad Kieliszek, a senior majoring in biomedical science, said he sees the uniqueness of the club through the promotion of legal car practices.
“(Other car shows) have people racing and doing illegal activities.” Kieliszek said. “We decide not to promote those things. We have a safe, fun and official atmosphere where everyone can express their love for cars, modifications, style and art. Whatever they do with their cars, that’s their piece of art. That’s their artwork. That’s how we express ourselves.”
While Kieliszek always had a passion for cars, owning an antique 1980 Chevrolet Corvette, he joined the club after it began in 2009 as a DJ when the events were held at the LeRoy Collins parking garage.
Since then, he’s seen the USF student club transform into a Tampa community following after the club established a social networking presence.
The following has been strong enough to start a UCE club at USF St. Petersburg by those who attended events at the Tampa campus.
“We started the University Car Events name to be in different universities,” Kieliszek said. “We can go to UCF and all over Florida hopefully. There’s people in every city that have that passion and culture of automobiles and following any kind of modifications or any kind of style and pretty much anything of cars.”
Even if attendees don’t know enough about cars to discuss catalytic converters and cold air intakes, Kieliszek still welcomes them to come out for the events.12