As a lifelong car dealer and longtime volunteer with industry and community causes, Tom Harris has given generously both in financial support and time over the years, and still finds it rewarding to help Special Olympics BC.
“What I see is an organization that is totally devoted to what they do, to providing a fun, competitive meaningful set of activities for people with intellectual disabilities. The joy that I see on the athletes’ faces when they get to compete, and the joy I see on the faces of the people helping them make this all possible, gives me a great feeling,” Harris says.
President of the Tom Harris Group and a second-generation car dealer, Harris was a longtime member of the New Car Dealers Association of BC executive committee and has been involved for many years with the committee that steers what is now the New Car Dealers Foundation of BC / Special Olympics Auction. He was involved when the event took the form of an annual gala held in Vancouver and helped lead the transition into the catalogue-based auction it is today.
The move to becoming a catalogue auction better demonstrated the generosity of Dealers and donors and showed the province-wide spread, more accurately reflecting the membership base. Harris said he has been thrilled to see the successful results. The Auction now annually attracts more than 200 donated items and each year draws more bidders from all corners of the province. The funds raised continue to grow every year.
“It’s a real credit to the Dealers, to all the people who donate, to the committee, and the people from SOBC who have been so actively involved. It’s a group effort that has turned out to be a real winner,” he says. “At the end of the day, the money all goes to the athletes, which is what I like – what we all like.”
Harris says it’s a “great experience” to work with the Auction committee, and feels the model of this strong event is something often copied but never successfully replicated.
“With the leadership from the committee and from SOBC, we’ve got something here that’s very unique,” Harris says. “It’s something we should all be proud of.”
The Harris Auto Group is now comprised of Harris Mitsubishi, Harris Kia, and Harris Mazda in Nanaimo, Harris Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Victoria, and Harris Oceanside Chevrolet GMC in Parksville. Harris also has Tom Harris Cellular, the largest TELUS dealer in Canada, and has a multitude of partners in different organizations.
Along the way, Harris has served on the executive committees of both the provincial and national New Car Dealers associations and contributed significantly to a number of charitable causes both with time and fundraising support.
“It has been very rewarding. I’ve certainly enjoyed the time I’ve spent doing what I’ve done, and reflecting on the contributions I’ve been able to make along with my employees and fellow Dealers and partners,” Harris says.
Now his family’s third generation of car dealers is following in his footsteps. Eldest son Mike is the Dealer Principal of Harris Oceanside Chevrolet GMC and his partner in several different businesses, including the Mazda and Oceanside GM dealerships; Mike Harris has served on the Board of Directors of New Car Dealers Association of BC and the New Car Dealers Foundation of BC for a number of years. Younger son Tony is the Dealer Principal at Harris Mitsubishi and serves in a number of other roles. The businesses continue to grow and thrive with the third generation involved.
“It’s a good feeling,” Harris says.
This article originally appeared in the New Car Dealers Association of B.C. publication Signals. With this series, SOBC is turning the spotlight on individual dealers who so generously support our athletes and our organization.