For the last three decades, the New Car Dealers Association of BC have connected with Special Olympics BC athletes, and the association staff members have pursued many and varied ways to support the athletes and help them succeed in their sports and in life. Like the New Car Dealers they represent, the association staff generously commit themselves to raising funds and awareness for Special Olympics and go above and beyond in finding other ways to help athletes around the province.
Supporting Special Olympics BC is one of the two primary charitable endeavours of the New Car Dealers Foundation of BC, along with supporting education for those wishing to enter or advance within the industry. New Car Dealers are truly community minded, focused on the places where they’ve built their businesses and on giving back. Supporting Special Olympics has been a powerful and rewarding way to do that, says New Car Dealers Association of BC President and CEO Blair Qualey.
Whenever there is the opportunity to bring New Car Dealers Board of Directors members and Special Olympics athletes together, “everyone always walks away feeling totally inspired, often with tears in their eyes,” Qualey says. “It’s happened many times at our Board meetings. … We are very fortunate to work with such a group of people who work so hard, who come back from so many challenges.”
The 30-year relationship between Special Olympics and B.C.’s New Car Dealers has seen Dealers raise and donate more than $4.2 million, helping Special Olympics BC grow from two weekends of games with about 500 participants to involving more than 4,300 athletes with intellectual disabilities in year-round programs in 18 sports and youth programs in 57 communities around the province. It has helped change the lives of thousands of athletes and, in turn, the lives of everyone they touch.
The New Car Dealers Association staff help power the annual New Car Dealers Foundation of BC / Special Olympics Auction, now a successful online enterprise, and help raise awareness about Special Olympics and show Dealers the power of their support by featuring athletes at their events such as the Vancouver International Auto Show Preview Gala and annual convention. And they generously look for wide-ranging ways to provide additional opportunities, ranging from sharing Special Olympics stories in Signals and their e-newsletters to giving local Special Olympics athletes the chance to attend a Chilliwack Chiefs game with them when they had the chance to host a box at a recent game. These examples are just a few of many.
“We just want to make sure all of our members get to find out what Special Olympics is all about,” Qualey says. “We always take the opportunity at the gala at our Auto Show to reinforce the relationship. … We consider ourselves part of the Special Olympics family and you are a part of ours.”
They’ve been inspired by many of the moments they’ve had with Special Olympics athletes over the years, like hearing athletes such as Michaela Robinson and Matthew Williams share their stories, and watching teams of athletes from across the country walking with such pride and excitement into the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics Canada 2014 Summer Games, which the New Car Dealers supported with generous vehicle donations and assistance.
Qualey says the New Car Dealers Association staff are inspired both by the Special Olympics athletes and the hardworking and community-minded New Car Dealers. Dealers develop such strong relationships with their customers and communities and do so much to participate and help out the worthwhile organizations and charities in their communities that sometimes need support. Much of it happens out of the spotlight.
“Many of our Dealers do so many things in the community that nobody hears about. They’re very humble, they don’t want to make a big fuss about it, [but] it’s important to who they are and their personal and business strategies,” Qualey says. “They inspire us because they’re such great business people and such community leaders.”
This article originally appeared in the New Car Dealers Association of BC publication Signals. With this series, SOBC is turning the spotlight on individual dealers who so generously support our athletes and our organization.