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This past January at the CIC meeting in Palm Springs, CA, Darren Huggins, the National Collision Director for the Van Tuyl Automotive Group, asked me if I would be interested in conducting a fire extrication demonstration for his tradeshow and fund raiser. Of course I said ‘yes.’ I contacted Craig Oliveira, Regional Sales Manager of Kent Automotive, and asked him if his company would sponsor my trip and he said, “Definitely, because Kent was one of the sponsors of the event.” I also contacted Progressive Insurance about getting a couple of late model total-loss vehicles for the event. Within 24 hours, they committed to providing a 2009 Ford Focus and a 2011 Hyundai Sonata. Knowing I had two late model cars, I contacted the Battalion Chief for the city of Arlington, and he committed two ladder trucks and two engine trucks for the event. I was now ready to rock and roll.
On February 14, I flew into Dallas and proceeded to Team Vandergriff Collision Center in Arlington, TX. This is a brand new 50,000-square-foot center (open less than six months). I met with David Shirley and his staff and he gave me a quick tour of the facility, which included two Garmat booths and prep stations, a top of the line Car-O-Liner bench system, EVO1, 2 & 3, Car-O-tronic measuring system, Hunter alignment rack and Prospot STR welders. The shop was packed with repairs and I was wondering how they were going to get all those cars outside. When I came back on Friday to prep my two total loss vehicles, the shop was totally cleaned out and the floors washed. By noon, 50 vendor tables were set up, plus 3M demonstration areas (plastic repair, vehicle prepping and detailing) were organized. By late in the afternoon, nearly all sponsoring vendors, including national companies Hertz, Enterprise, CCC, Summit Solutions, Prospot, Car-O-Liner, Matrix Wand, Kent Automotive and 3M were set up. There were five cars with big ribbon bows on top.
Here is what was so unique about this multi-event which had more than 3,200 attendees: It was a fundraiser for Trinity River Mission and Family Promise of Irving; it was a Recycled Rides Giveaway; it was also a training day for technicians and an invitation for students in interested in the collision industry as a career path. Let’s look as some of the events that made this day really special:
Trinity River Mission is a volunteer-based community learning center that promotes literacy, encourages academic success and develops effective life skills among disadvantaged youth in West Dallas, in the belief that education connects them to life’s possibilities. Nearly $25,000 was raised for this group.
The Van Tuyl Automotive group sponsors two local vocational schools with equipment and training. The two schools, Texas State Technical College and East Field College, sent 50 students to be part of this industry event.
Chip Foose is a well-known hot rod shop owner, automotive designer and fabricator, and star of the reality TV series Overhaulin’ on Velocity. Foose, with nationally-recognized custom painter Charley Hutton, demonstrated their unique skills and talked with the attendees about a career in the collision repair industry.
The Recycled Rides event gave away five late model vehicles that were donated by Hertz, Enterprise, Farmers Insurance, Grapevine Ford and Westway Ford. The parts were donated by the many vendors that supply the Van Tuyl Automotive group and five of the 15 area Van Tuyl collision centers furnished the labor. I have been to number of these giveaways and they still make me teary eyed. I will also say that Darren became very emotional after announcing the second family and you could really see pride for his employees who volunteered their time for the project and deep emotion for the special needs families. Vandergriff Chevrolet North, Vandergriff South, Vandergriff Toyota, Grapevine Ford and WestwayFord all participated in the giveaway. If you and your shop are not involved with the Recycled Rides Program, you are really missing the boat.
Everyone who attended were treated to a real Texas barbecue.
Lastly, the fire extrication demonstration and training exercise was a real hit. All of the firefighters were really appreciative to be able to train on late model cars that produce new challenges with all the high strength and ultra high strength steels. I set off all the side air bags, seat air bags and frontal air bags, which everyone including the firefighters, really enjoyed.
I want to thank Progressive Insurance for their donations and Cowboy Towing for picking up, moving and delivering the cars in a most professional manner.
In closing, I hope that the Van Tuyl Automotive Group makes this an annual event and invites me back.