In anticipation of the grudge match between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts, I grabbed some snacks and a soft drink, hit the remote control and settled into my favorite chair – it was payback time. I knew the game hadn’t started yet, but what the heck – a little NFL pregame build-up couldn’t hurt anything.
Instead, I joined 60 Minutes, the TV show, which was already in progress. They had just begun a segment on the Mid-South chapter of Make-A-Wish. The program was highlighting how several small rural communities in Arkansas were attacking their annual Make-A-Wish fundraising drive with the enthusiasm of the U.S. hockey team defeating the Russians in 1986. And I must say, their fundraising achievements were inspiring to say the least. Thirty Make-A-Wish kids were going to see their wishes granted due to the generosity of some of the poorest communities in the entire state.
I couldn’t do anything other than smile. The TV show brought back memories of the Make-A-Wish kids Allison Transmission and its employees have sponsored over the years. The youngest was a boy who at the time was five years old. This little guy could charm the stripes off of a tiger. He and his family wanted to tour our transmission factory in Speedway. And we were okay with that. But as the day of their visit grew near we began thinking – would a five-year-old boy prefer looking at a manufacturing assembly line or riding up front in a firetruck? Of course, the firetruck won. And as luck would have it, we just happened to have a firetruck at our Indianapolis test track. I wish you could have seen the family’s reaction when we told them they weren’t going to tour our manufacturing facility after all. Initially, there were signs of disappointment, until we told them about the firetruck. Based on the joy and excitement the family displayed, you would have thought I had been transformed into Santa Claus, or at least the Easter Bunny.
After what proved to be a thrilling ride in a firetruck with the lights flashing and the sirens blasting, our CEO drove to Buffalo Wild Wings to personally pick up our guest of honor’s favorite food – barbecue chicken wings. Following lunch and the presentation of some Allison Transmission swag, we wished the family all of our best during their upcoming visit to Disney World and off they went. Slightly over a year later, we checked in with Make-A-Wish to see how our newest little friend was doing. That’s when we received the bad news. As it turns out, despite a life-long struggle, the cancer had won.
This year, Allison Transmission continued its annual tradition of granting the wish of an Indiana child. We do it the old-fashioned way. Employee volunteers position themselves at the gates of our local manufacturing sites and our corporate headquarters to solicit donations. Some people deposit pocket change in the volunteers’ plastic buckets, while others give folding money or write personal checks. Either way, all donations are welcomed and appreciated. From the very beginning, Allison Transmission Inc. has matched employee contributions dollar for dollar. During some years, we’ve raised enough to allow us to sponsor two wishes – and that brings us to Clay.
Clay is 18 years old. He enjoys reading Ernest Hemmingway, listening to music, watching movies and riding bikes. Clay’s wish was to travel with his family to Machu Picchu. That’s right, Machu Picchu. Clay is the kind of guy everyone seems to like. And once the folks at Make-A-Wish told us about Clay, we knew we had to take the initiative to grant Clay’s wish – so we did. Clay and his family sent us a rousing description and pictures of their activities once they returned to Indiana. They spent eight days in Peru, visited Lima and going to the Cusco Sacred Valley of the Incas. The entire trip was full of sightseeing and exploring, and the family had the opportunity to experience portions of the local culture.
All is going well with Clay and we couldn’t be happier. He continues to excel, is in his first semester of college, and his future remains bright. I want to be the first to say, Make-A-Wish puts smiles on the faces of the kids they touch, and those kids put everlasting smiles in the hearts of the rest of us.
Allison Transmission is helping raise even more money for Make-A-Wish through the Super Service Challenge, a challenge that promotes service in the workplace by encouraging companies to donate their time, share stories of service and win funding for nonprofits in their communities. Vote for their latest Make-A-Wish service video here!
If your company is interested in participating, visit the Super Service Challenge website.