500 Festival Foundation opens Fueling the Community fundraising campaign to public


The 500 Festival Foundation is taking its Fueling the Community fundraising campaign to the public.

The campaign, which started in 2021 with an Internal drive, was announced May 3 at the 500 Festival Kickoff to May event, presented by STAR Bank.  

“Once we launched our efforts internally, we began our fundraising process by working with those who have been most engaged and invested in the 500 Festival throughout our 65-year history,” 500 Festival Foundation Executive Director Christine Swarm said. “Our Festival community responded with such enthusiasm and generosity, we felt it was time to put our outreach efforts more broadly. The 500 Festival is driven by our community already, so we’re extremely optimistic about their response of moving us forward.”

The campaign raised $3.4 million from donations from previous supporters. The goal now is to bring that total to $5 million.

“The 500 Festival youth education, fitness and leadership development programs have grown tremendously and are now reaching more families than ever before,” Swarm said. “The demand for these programs, such as our fourth-grade education program and Kids Fit program continues to increase.”

Swarm said the Fueling the Community campaign allows the 500 Festival to extend their reach to more Hoosiers to further the mission and foster a love for Indiana history.

“The fourth-grade program brings history, science, math, language arts and a history of the Indianapolis 500 to fourth-grade classrooms throughout the state,” Swarm said. “It’s a free curriculum, and there are also mobile study trips.”

Third- and fourth-grade classes from around the state visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for field trips. Swarm said the goal is to reach even more students.

The 500 Festival staff, volunteers, Princesses and paid interns are engaged in visiting the classrooms from March through May.

“We couldn’t do it without our volunteers,” Swarm said.

The 500 Festival KidsFit program is a free school-based curriculum offered to schools.

“It’s encouraging and inspiring physical activity for youth based over several weeks to reach their own equivalent of the Mini-Marathon, which is 13.1 miles,” Swarm said. “It’s really sparking that love for fitness and encouraging healthy, active lifestyles. We’ve seen the generational impact that can have as family members will be inspired to start joining their little one. We often see them at the next year’s Mini-Marathon or 5K run.”

Swarm said it’s important to the 500 Festival that the program is free.  

Mark Miles and Cindy Simon Skjodt serve as the honorary campaign co-chairs.

“They’ve been extremely helpful since the early stages, Swarm said.

For more, visit 500FestivalFoundation.com/campaign.