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An Undocumented Disease, A Life Shortened: Shelby's Way Continues to Spread It's Message of Hope

Words: R. A. Jetter

Photos: Mark Cain, Shelby’s Way Foundation

Last year, brought you the story of Mark Cain, and his family’s tribute to the loss of son Shelby.  Roger Jetter has a follow up to the efforts of Mark and Pam Cain, and the Shelby’s Way Foundation.

What’s a father to do when he’s lost his Number One son? At worst, grieve for a year and half (and longer), constantly ask himself why? At best, start the Shelby’s Way Program, a foundation dedicated to increasing awareness of suicide prevention among members of the hot rod community.

The Hot Rod Hullabullo

Mark Cain is a car guy, always has been, but after his son Shelby succumbed to depression, and committed suicide in late 2009, Mark was lost.  It took time but he found a sense of purpose, something he could carry forward, living his life a different way - something he had to do. “I left my comfy corporate job to dedicate my life to my son’s memory,” Mark says. That meant opening Shelby’s Speed and Kustom shop, and the work of the Shelby’s Way Foundation.

This customized V8 award goes out to the Roundup winners.

“Over the last year we have officially filed our non-profit status and letters of incorporation with the state of Kentucky. It has been accepted, which means we can now fully function with our fund raisers and receive donations. Prior to our acceptance, and still today, it's my wife Pam & myself that support this program. Not only with boots on the ground, but vocally as well,” Mark explains.

Manning the Hot Rod Get-Together booth

In tribute to their son, Mark and his wife Pam started the Shelby’s Way Foundation to share the message of suicide prevention with the hot rod community they also loved. For the past three years, the Cains have been involved in racing, local cruise-ins, rod runs, traditional style hot rod events, NSRA national events and GoodGuy’s events either as participants or as vendors.  They are sharing with others the lessons they learned so painfully. “When someone is thinking about suicide, it’s not likely that they will come right out and tell you. By increasing awareness of what to look for in friends and family members struggling with depression, the foundation hopes to change mindsets and spread the word about how to look for signs of trouble,” Mark explains.  Pam adds, “By taking the time to listen to your friends, family members, or even complete strangers, you may be able to help prevent another tragedy. Through fellowship, sincerity, and taking the time to love one another, suicides can be prevented!”

They are also pleased to announce some new initiatives. “We can now move into our next step which is bringing relief and help to folks struggling with hard times and finances which we believe can also lead to depression and thoughts of just giving up, which we do not want. We all struggle with rent, mortgage payments, car payments, utilities and even weekly groceries, gas and clothes for the kids. Local and big government can help sometimes with the larger crisis in one’s life, but where can a person go without all the red tape and waiting, to get immediate help? Shelby's Way can help,” says Mark.


“Shelby’s will be there for those that may not be covered by insurance for mental health issues, or no insurance at all, to provide funds to seek professional help. Lastly my family knows well the money needed to bury a loved one after a suicide. Insurance may not cover it and many of us don't have that nest egg set aside for such a tragedy. Shelby's Way does not want this to be an issue at such a time in your family’s life, so for those struggling to meet the financial cost of a funeral, we also want to be there to assist in any way we can.”

Shelby’s Hot Rod Roundup and Get Together

The Hot Rod Roundup continues this year, with an eye to branching out in 2013 with additional venues. Shelby's Speed & Kustom has also sold one of its shop cars and is in the process of building a ‘32 Ford 3 window Coupe to  take on the first Shelby's Road Tour 2014 from Lexington, Kentucky to Southern California in June 2014 for the annual LA Roadster show in an effort to “Bring Awareness to Suicide Prevention.” The trip will also serve to take the Shelby's Hot Rod Roundup across Highway 40 and back, documenting the trip along the way. It will stop by local Speed Shops, builders, cruise nights and rod runs sharing our program with everyone for the whole month of June.

The hood race is a favorite event at every Hullabullo.

Finally, Shelby's Hot Rod Get Together is a local awareness effort. “We have teamed up with Kirby Stafford, a local custom painter and pinstriper, along with his partner, Richard Sanders, and their annual Labor Day weekend Hot Rod Hullabaloo in Danville, Kentucky, on the famous Dillehay Street. This will be our 3rd year with these guys and each year it gets bigger. We have live bands, food, vendors, a Hot Wheels drag race for the kids along with a downhill-style hood races for those wishing to participate and build a downhill racer out of a car hood...kinda like Soap Box Derby but Hoodlum Style,” explains Mark.

These efforts help the Cain’s remember their son, and bring the messages of awareness and community to the hot rod world, locally and globally.

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