homepage logo

Cape Coral Touch A Truck | Fundraiser set for Saturday

By CJ HADDAD - | Apr 4, 2024

An annual event that raises funds for an on-the-spectrum disorder while giving children a chance to play with real, full-sized “toys” returns to Cape Coral this weekend.

The seventh annual EHL Touch A Truck takes place this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Lafayette Street in downtown Cape Coral, where children and their families can engage and get an up-close-and-personal experience with a wide variety of large vehicles, trucks, buses, fire engines, construction equipment, and more.

Originating in 2015 through a collaboration between the South Cape Hospitality & Entertainment Association, and Fran and Steve Marsino’s EHL Fragile X Foundation, the event was inspired by the Marsino’s grandson Ethan, and his dealings with Fragile X syndrome. The events aim is to raise awareness about the syndrome in Southwest Florida.

“We’re very excited to be able to continue to bring this back,” Fran Marsino said. “In fact, we are sold out and have filled all of the room we have for vendors and vehicles. This will be the biggest one yet.”

EHL Touch A Truck sparks children’s imaginations, exposes them to new experiences, and inspires creativity. Children can climb, honk horns, and pretend to drive various trucks, fostering cognitive development, problem-solving skills, positive social interactions, and even career exploration. The foundation was created by Fran and Steve, with the EHL letters in the title representing Ethan’s initials.

This year’s event will feature more than 40 trucks for children to climb on and explore. Attendees can witness their favorite toys come to life as they interact with dump trucks, explore fire trucks, and honk horns.

The event has grown so much that next year, it will extend all the way to Del Prado Boulevard, Marsino said.

“We started out just in the parking lot of the SWFL Military Museum, and now we’re taking up a quarter mile of space with a half mile of trucks, lining both sides of the street,” she added. “It feels amazing to be able to provide this to youth in the area. It gets harder to put on each year, but seeing the smiles on the children’s faces the day-of, and the kids that come up to us and hug us and say ‘thank you,’ it’s all worth it.”

In addition to the truck exhibits, the event showcases more than 40 local businesses, providing a unique opportunity for community engagement. Several food trucks will be on hand to satisfy appetites and add to the festive atmosphere.

Families attending the event will receive an event passport, encouraging them to explore and support local businesses by collecting stamps. Upon completing the passport, families can exchange it for a prize suitable for children, adding an extra element of fun to the day.

The event kicks off with local singer Katy Sumrow performing the National Anthem, followed by a flag presentation by a local Girl Scout Troop. Last year’s Touch A Truck event drew more than 6,000 attendees, and this year, EHL aims to surpass that number with an anticipated attendance of more than 7,000.

Marsino said there is also a “horn free” hour from 9 to 10 a.m. to accommodate those with sensitive ears.

Fragile X is caused by a mutation of the X chromosome, making one unable to produce a protein called FMR1, which aids brain and muscle development. Symptoms include delays in talking, anxiety, and hyperactivity.

“People can come and talk to us at our booth and find out about Fragile X,” Marsino said. “It’s pretty much unknown. It’s the leading inherited intellectual disability on the spectrum.”

Proceeds from the event help research on Fragile X, and all children from all walks of life are welcome to attend.

“Some children on the spectrum can ‘run wild,’ and they can do so at Touch a Truck care-free,” Marsino said.

To date, EHL has donated more than $50,000 towards Fragile X research.

For more information on EHL and the Touch a Truck event, visit ehlfragilex.org/touch-a-truck.