LONG BEACH, CA--(Marketwired - Apr 3, 2014) - Bronze medal-winning paralympic snowboarder and "Dancing with the Stars" contestant Amy Purdy will bring her competitive spirit to the 38th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Pro/Celebrity Race on April 12, as Grand Marshal of the long-running, prestigious, charitable event. Purdy will be joined by R&B singer and Grammy-nominated musician Brian McKnight, who will open the race by performing the national anthem.
Purdy, 34, began snowboarding at 15, but her life changed dramatically at just 19 years-old when she was diagnosed with Meningococcal Meningitis, and given about a two percent chance of survival. Due to the disease, which affected her circulatory system, both of her legs had to be amputated below the knee.
Determined to get back on the slopes, Purdy adapted her own prosthetics, as she couldn't find any that would work for snowboarding. One year later, she came in third place in a snowboarding competition at Mammoth Mountain and has since competed in several U.S. competitions and the Sochi Paralympics.
In 2005 Purdy co-founded Adaptive Action Sports, a non-profit organization which helps introduce young people with disabilities to action sports.
Purdy, a Team Toyota Athlete, will say the most famous words in racing -- "Ladies and Gentlemen... Start Your Engines" -- at the start of the Pro/Celebrity Race.
"Team Toyota athletes are not only leaders in their respective sports, but also role models and sources of inspiration for us all," Keith Dahl, Corporate Manager, Motorsports & Engagement Marketing. "Amy's perseverance and indomitable spirit have helped her overcome significant challenges to achieve greatness both on and off the slopes."
The participation of both Purdy and McKnight adds to the impressive list of Pro/Celebrity Race drivers from film, television, music and sports who will speed through the historic 1.97-mile street circuit on the streets of downtown Long Beach, Calif. They include U.S. Olympian Carmelita Jeter, academy award-winning actor Adrien Brody, New Zealand-born television personality Phil Keoghan, host of the popular CBS series "The Amazing Race," Emmy-winning actress best known for "Las Vegas," Vanessa Marcil, and the popular star of "Bates Motel" Max Thieriot.
Also in this year's race are last year's winner and co-host of "Top Gear USA" Rutledge Wood, star of MTV's hit-series "Awkward," Brett Davern, retired NASCAR driver Kyle Petty, Mr. Long Beach, Al Unser Jr., ABC's "Revenge" star Nick Wechsler, Eric Braeden, who stars on the popular soap opera "The Young and the Restless," "High School Musical" star and former "Dancing with the Stars" contestant Corbin Bleu, Canadian actress and model Tricia Helfer, Cole Hauser, who stars with Johnny Depp in the upcoming Warner Bros. film "Transcendence," Colin Egglesfield, most recognized as Tommy Rizzoli in "Rizzoli & Isles," "Being Human" star Sam Witwer, K-Earth 101 FM's entertainment reporter Lisa Stanley, charity auction winner Doug Fregin and Founder and President of Racing for Kids Dr. William Pinsky.
"We are thrilled to have Amy Purdy serve as grand marshal and Brian McKnight sing the anthem before this year's race, bringing more star power to this high-profile charitable event," said Les Unger, Toyota National Motorsports Manager. "Together their presence will help bring more attention to the children who benefit from The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Pro/Celebrity Race."
The Pro/Celebrity race is one of the longest-running, corporate-sponsored events of its kind. Toyota annually donates $5,000 to Racing for Kids on behalf of each participant and another $5,000 to the winning racer's charity of choice. Racing for Kids -- a national nonprofit program benefiting children's hospitals throughout the country -- was created as a way to connect these children with their favorite celebrities and race car drivers.
Since 1991, Toyota has donated more than $2 million to the Racing for Kids organization, on behalf of this race and its participants.
To learn more about the Pro/Celebrity Race, visit www.toyotaracing.com/series/toyota-pro-celebrity.html.
Toyota is committed to being a good corporate citizen in the communities where it does business and believes in supporting programs with long-term sustainable results. Toyota supports numerous organizations across the country, focusing on education, the environment and safety. Since 1991, Toyota has contributed nearly 700 million to philanthropic programs in the U.S.
About the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Owned and operated by the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, LLC, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is America's longest continually run street race. The three-day weekend features seven racing events including the Verizon IndyCar Series, TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, Pro/Celebrity Race, Motegi Racing Super Drift Challenge, Indy Lights, Pirelli World Challenge and SPEED Energy Formula Off-Road. Off the track, the Grand Prix has a Lifestyle Expo, Friday and Saturday night concerts and charitable events during race week from the Grand Prix Foundation of Long Beach.