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Gabe Mealy cleaning up IMS

Source: WISH-TV / other

SPEEDWAY, Ind. — 350,000 race fans can generate a lot of trash that needs to be picked up. That’s the task the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is faced with each year after the Indianapolis 500.

However, instead of having their own staff go through the stands that circumvent the two-and-a-half-mile oval, the track sees it as an opportunity to give back to the community.

“I know I’m helping out the school because of the fundraising money we get from this,” said Gabe Mealy, a senior from Southwood High School, on WISH-TV. “It keeps me coming back.”

Mealy is a football player at Southwood. He and some of his teammates, along with the Southwood volleyball team and cheerleading squad, were among several community organizations that made up an army of hundreds of volunteers to sweep through the grandstands of IMS on Monday and pick up trash left behind from race day.

Organizations sign up to volunteer and in return for picking up trash and helping clean up the facility, IMS will donate up to $6,000 to said organization depending on how much of an area they are able to clean up in one day.

For Southwood head football coach Thomas Tyree that means some extra funds to purchase equipment they need.

“I know volleyball gets their shoes, their knee pads,” Tyree said. “For us, we are able to get guardian caps, a new endzone camera, new helmets. Helmets are really expensive these days. To be able to just fit our kids with some of the best protective gear out there, I mean, I think it just kind of makes the parents feel safer.”

The Southwood students cleaned up almost the entirety of the main grandstand from Turn 4 all the way to Turn 1 on Monday. Collecting hundreds of pounds of trash.

Southwood High School Athletic Director Tom Finicle said the school has raised at least $200,000 in the 12 years in which it has taken part in the IMS cleanup. This is Mealy’s fourth and final year volunteering.

“I found a wallet one time, I didn’t keep it though,” he said. “I’m just glad I’m able to help, not only the track but Southwood.”