To tell the story of CamaroStrong, we first need to tell the story of its inspiration, Mike Strong.  Detroit 5th Gen Camaro Club member Mike Strong was known all over the Detroit area for his passion and selflessness.  Mike’s wife, Julie, sums it up better than anyone in the following excerpt from a letter she wrote about her beloved husband:

“Married in 1984 to Julie, Mike already had a love of cars. At the time, it was a 1963 Ford Galaxy 500 he and his grandfather put together.   Newly married, young, and starting from the ground up, the Galaxy sadly was relinquished for a more practical vehicle.  Soon enough there was a house and kids, and Mike loved being a family man as much as cars. Over the years came bikes, a snowmobile, Harleys, boats and several cars & tricks; “we went through it all”.  His son, Alex, shared Mike’s love of cars.  It took very little persuading Alex to enlist Mike’s help securing his own first vehicle.  Mike and Alex worked on that truck the same way Mike’s grandfather had worked with him.  The truck was ready to go before Alex even had his license.   

As both a car lover, and professionally dependent on the auto industry, the crash of 2008 took a toll on Mike and his family the same as thousands of others.  When his local company was bought out Mike was fortunate to find work.  The new job was an hour drive away and gas prices were rising.  One son was already in college and one approaching.  Mike saw some relief in ordering a new product Chevy was developing, the sporty, economical Sonic.  Suffice it to say, the Sonic did not work out.  In less than 6 months of owing it, the Sonic spent more time in repair than with Mike.  In an emotional decision, Mike then bought his first Camaro.  In May of 2012, Mike was introduced to, and joined the Detroit 5th Gen Camaro Club.  He loved the camaraderie; shared passion for these reinvented classic cars, and the friendly competition for modifying and individualizing each car.  It was not long before Mike’s first stock gen 5 was traded in for his 2013 SS V8, ordered and built exactly to Mike’s specification.   Many mods later… Mike was having the time of his life with that dream car…”

June 2013 brought troubling health symptoms, including stomach pain and fatigue.  In August 2013, Mike was diagnosed with Stave IV Colorectal cancer. It was nearly blocking his colon and had metastasized to his liver and distant abdominal lymph nodes.  Being otherwise young and strong, the doctors immediately put Mike into a regiment of intense chemotherapy.  The first six months of treatment were grueling and took as much a toll on Mike as the cancer itself.  The good news was the chemo was remarkable effective on both the colon and liver.  The lymph nodes were still resistant.  A side effect of the chemo was painful neuropathy, which also severely affected Mike’s mobility.  Jody Young would stand next to Mike ready to catch him because he wobbled so much.  Mike retired in May 2014 to devote more time to family, and more energy to battling his cancer. A bright spot was that doctors had not really expected Mike to make it this far, but he did and was still optimistically fighting!

October of 2014, brought yet another blow with the diagnosis of a brain tumor, unrelated to the colon cancer, and Mike faced some hard decisions.  His mobility, neuropathy and other complications from the cancer and chemo were severely affecting his daily life.  He sadly let go of the 2013 SS, with all the mods, headers, Hurst shifter and even the nightrider lights.  In December 2014, Mike doctors told Mike that despite all the chemo, the lymph nodes continued to grow.  There was only one drug left to try, a very newly released chemo medication.  After all Mike had fought back against, this drug proved debilitating and sent him to the hospital.  Mike was exhausted, and not a little bit scared.  The chemo was stopped and Mike rested.  A bright spot was the brain tumor was stable.

In January of 2015, the Detroit 5th Gen Camaro Club started a fundraising effort to help Mike and Julie. Initially this was done by selling Camarostrong wristbands for $5 each with all proceeds going to Mike and his family.  After hearing about this effort, fellow club members Ken and Kristen Lingenfelter, of Lingenfelter Performance Engineering and the Lingenfelter Foundation, in conjunction with Becky Doyle from Rodgers Chevrolet, got involved and made up a variety of different apparel options and donated all proceeds to the Camarostrong fund, again with all of the money going to Mike and his family. This took Camarostrong nation wide and raised enough money so Julie was able to take the needed time off work, to be with Mike while he was hospitalized as well as helped cover some of the very expensive medical costs.

Mike’s health seemed to rally and he began to feel stronger.  In April of 2015, however, Mike’s health took another downward turn. Sadly, Mike lost his battle with cancer on May 16, 2015 at the all-too-young age of 52.

The Camarostrong fund lives on, now as a memorial to Mike Strong.  All funds raised by Camarostrong will be donated to the American Cancer Society, at the Strong family’s request, to help fight this terrible disease.  It’s not just a car. The Camaro has created friendships all over the world and that is simply who we are. Giving back and and making donations is what the Camaro community is all about.

Special thanks to:

Kristen Lingenfelter – Lingenfelter Corp

Rebecca Doyle – Rodgers Chevrolet

Detroit 5th Gen Camaro Club