Cancer Benefit & 4x4 Truck Show
By John Chaney
Just a few short weeks ago one of my best friends came to me and told me that his granddaughter's cancer had returned and they were at the end of what the Houston Cancer Centers could do. I was told that they would need nearly $45,000 to get her into a new treatment that has shown promise in fighting of her type of cancer (Welms Tumors). Jim told me that everything he owned was now for sale, house, land, trailer, truck. He had to raise the funds to get Hailey into the treatment. Jim was fighting to hold back the tears.
I told Jim to stop and let me have a chance to get some help coming their way. You see, I'm lucky enough to be a board member of the best club I've ever had the pleasure of being involved in, the Southern High Rollers 4x4 Club. One of my next calls was to another great friend, the president of our club, Shawn. I advised Shawn of the situation and hold him that I wanted to change the monthly meeting we were hosting for the club into a full blown fundraiser. Stacy and his wife got involved because they are part of the runs committee and charity committee and I'm so glad they did! The next thing I knew, Shawn had a website up just for Hailey. Within no time at all, we were having "meetings" via telephone and I was driving both Shawn and Stacy
crazy! And the fundraising was off and running. Within no time Officers from Metro and 4 wheel drive groups from across the state and the Internet wanted to be involved. And get involved they did. As much as I knew this was a great club willing to help those in need, I never fathomed the efforts would be so intense or that the interest would grow to the extent it did. Word spread as far as Colorado. Even 4-wheel drive enthusiasts at the Las Cruces Chili Challenge event were more than willing to donate money to help this little girl they didn't even know.
Tolan Harding and I got back in town from the Chili Challenge and things really started to pick up. Before I knew it, members of the club and others from the 4wd community were getting the message out and the donations were coming in. Officers from METRO started getting into the sprit and soon Shawn had so many items and names to add to the list it had to be broken down into sections. Stacy and his wife Jennifer had things organized and entertainment coming in from all sides.
Hailey was so excited that she was worried that she wouldn't remember everyone's names. I think that people started to see how well it was going and that just made them push harder.
Everyone involved in the inner workings of the event started getting calls and emails from all over the area. Most of the time we had no idea how some of these people heard about the event. All we knew for sure was that hearts were touched and there was help coming from all sides. Unlike the rest of the people involved I was getting daily reminders from Jim how much Hailey was getting uplifted by all of the people that wanted to help her. I tried to let everyone know but I'm not sure if I did it enough. As the event grew closer some of our fears started to come true, the forecast was rain and plenty of it. This could change everything; Bear Creek Park is behind Addicks dam and is designed to hold water. The decision was made and we knew the event would be "rain or shine".
Then the day was here. As Kelly and I were loading everything including my truck "Crack Habit" up for the event, the rain started. We got everything loaded and headed to the park. When we arrived, Jim and the cooking team were hard at work making sure there would be food for the workers as they arrived before the start of the event. The trucks were unloaded and so were the donations. I worried how it would go with the rain then Shawn and Stacy arrived and we started to work to make sure that everything was ready.
The rest of the workers started arriving and then the trucks started to pull in. It looked like we might have a few people show up so we all just worked a little harder. Signs were put out and trucks were parked. The media Channel 24 was there and wanted to know about the Motorcycle ride that was coming out. I told them that they should be there at anytime and privately hoped they would make it there safely with all of the bad weather. Then, like a much needed shot in the arm, here they came. Soaked and cold, the riders proudly drove down Bear Creek Drive in front of the Pavilion and everyone who was there lined up at the edge of the pavilion and cheered.
Like a New Years Ball getting lit, this party was started. Trucks and Jeeps and Land Rovers and all kinds of people started to arrive. Before we knew what was happening the parking lot was getting full and the donations were pouring in. SHR members and friends jumped in to help out and the police officers who donated their time were making sure everyone was safe. Food was being served and kids were having fun. The moonwalk people brought out a smaller moonwalk due to the rain and set it up in the pavilion so the kids could have fun and not get soaked. Jay Albrecht showed up and we put his Jeep right out front for an attention grabber - then Ray Barth Sr. returned with a 40's Military Flat Fender. It was a quite a sight, this little original Military Jeep next to Jay's TJ with the 46" tires.
A few of the other guys got into the show sprit and started parking their 4x4's on top each other on the side of the pavilion. (If you don't have a ramp to play on, your buddy's tires are a great thing to drive your rig onto.) Most of us were soaked to the bone but we were so happy and busy it really didn't matter. With the prizes out and the silent auction working this party was turning out a whole lot better then any of us thought it would with the weather being as bad as it was.
Before long someone made the mistake of letting me have a microphone and I got cranked up. Jim and the rest of Hailey's family were just blown away by the fact that so many people would come out on a rainy day just to help out little Hailey. Before someone was smart enough to take the mic away I was challenging the crowd to buy more tickets and making Jim and family come to the stage to say a few words. Even Ms. Hailey said a few words before running off to play some more.
Next I was out in the show area Politicking (OK, shamelessly begging) for votes for my truck "Crack Habit" in the Ugly Duckling category. Then I was challenged that my truck would not truly run and within a few seconds a bet of $10 to the raffle fund was forged. (I LOVE to take advantage of my police captains). Well, Crack Habit fired on the first bump of the starter switch and $10 more bucks were added to the kitty.
Soon it was time to end the silent auction and once again someone let me have a mic. (They’ll learn soon enough) I was back to my challenges and working the crowd to get their money out and keep our ticket sellers busy. It was amazing to me how fast some people were ready to come get my money and get it into the fund every time I put more challenges out to the crowd. Soon we were into the second roll of tickets and even the little kids wanted to get a ticket or two. The Magic Man was let loose on the kids and even the parents were having fun watching his magic. Soon the silent auction winners were announced and so were the winners of the car show. Shawn was ready to start the raffle.
Shawn started to work the crowd even more but his voice faded fast. Like most of the events we have, before the end of the day both of our voices are usually gone. Well, there we were and if you can believe it, they let me loose with the mic again. We got Hailey up to the front to pull the tickets and the raffle was on the way. (Admittedly I was honored to be there with Hailey passing out the prizes to all of the great people who had come to the event.) Several assistants were recruited and Hailey worked hard for a while pulling tickets and even calling a few numbers out herself.
Our usual crowd pleasing freebies were tossed out. For some reason they wouldn't let me throw any of the bigger stuff, something about earlier events and wire ties. Guess you had to be there for that one. J Hailey had about all the fun she could stand and we were soon without an assistant to pull numbers. We recruited a few other kids who didn't last long then there was this little boy who started to help. After a few tickets I looked back for a ticket and realized that he was starring at the speakers in amazement. He just didn't understand how I was talking in front of him and my voice was coming from this big black box behind him. After a good laugh, I asked him what he'd like to raffle off next and to my surprise he said "The Jeep". I was so tickled by his answer (thinking he was talking about one of the real Jeeps) I asked which one. He pointed out there was a toy Jeep on the top of the pile. The Jeep was passed out and the surprises just kept coming. Swede won an appropriate gift – an SHR travel bag. (Appropriate because he is the founder and past 8 year president of the club.)
Then there was the bicycle that Ingrid Hollinger and crew donated. It was this cute little kid’s bike and I asked for a number and said it over the mic. There was a short pause and I asked again if there was a winner. Then from the side I hear we have the winning ticket. I about fell over when I looked back and here came Hailey with the winning ticket. NOW THAT WAS THE APPROPRIATE WINNER FOR THAT PRIZE. When I announced it to the crowd they just went wild. I was later told the story of how Hailey got the ticket. A gentleman who was at the event was talking to Hailey’s grandmother, somewhere in the conversation he had told her he was currently unemployed but hoped to be working again real soon. He had come to the event and had purchased $20 in raffle tickets. Before the raffle started he had to leave. He took the tickets to Hailey and told her, these tickets are for you - if you win anything you keep it. You gotta love these people, kids come first.
Somewhere during all of this raffling, the club members behind me were busy adding up preliminary totals for the raffle and the silent auction. Like a late breaking news story, I was handed the total from the silent auction and advised the crowd that over $1500 was raised by the auction. They went wild! Then the total for the raffle, car show and donations was handed to me and I could barley get the words out of my mouth. I read it twice then told the crowd just what a great job they had done, over $5700. I stood there in silent awe for a moment as I watched the crowd clap and cheer at the numbers. (I thought to myself - this is what it's all about.)
It wasn't long after that the last ticket was pulled and the final prize was passed out. You would think that was the end, but not with these people. Once the raffle was over, two people brought back the items they had won for the club to sell and make more money for Hailey. An impromptu auction was held and almost another $100 was added to the pot. At this point most of the guests left and the SHR members got ready for their meeting. Jim came over and told some of us how much all of this meant to him and the family and yes all of us big burly guys ended up with tears in our eyes.
The club had a quick meeting and Thanks were passed around and the meeting was soon over. Almost everyone loaded up and headed home. Stacy, Jennifer, Kelly and I were the last ones left and we all ended up sitting down for a moment, catching our breath and talking about how great the whole thing turned out. We took one last look around and contacted the Constable's Office so they could lock the gates they left open for us. We started to drive off and I had to go back and turn off the lights. As I walked into the empty pavilion for the last time I looked around and thought to myself WOW!!! I couldn't ask for a better group to be involved with!!!
I went home and Kelly and I unloaded everything and he had to head home himself. Funny thing was it still wasn't over. I signed onto the computer to find out there was another $545 donation ready to be picked up. Since Sunday there have been a few more donations and the family can certainly use every one of them.
Jim and the family have repeatedly told me they never expected to see this event take in the amount of money it has. They also never expected it to get so many other people out there started with collecting money for the family. Tuesday after the event, Jim and I were in his office when two of our sergeants entered and gave him a few hundred more dollars they had collected. We know there is more coming from both officers and committees we work with at the Rodeo.
This event proved once again what I always knew about the off-road community, the Southern High Rollers 4X4 Club and the police officers I work with. They are great groups to be a part of.
While there are so many people to thank for making this a huge success I would personally like to thank the core group that worked so hard and put up with me during the planning of this event; Shawn & Chris Pagan, Stacy & Jennifer Newman and my wife Evelyn. Thank You. You may never understand just how much it means to me to be able to call you MY FRIENDS!
To the members of the Southern High Rollers 4x4 Club, As Shawn said, I am proud to be associated with this club. THANK YOU!