The local charity—which serves childhood cancer patients and their families—brought along a few kids to tell their stories.
“There were 40 dealership employees in that meeting,” says Rich Greenblatt, Centennial Toyota customer service manager. “By the end, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.”
In the three years since, the bond between Centennial Toyota and Candlelighters has strengthened to the point where the charity recently honored General Manager Anthony Woods as its Philanthropist of the Year. So far, the dealership has given a combined $132,260.47 in the form of event sponsorships and employee donations.
That means a lot to Woods, whose sister died of breast cancer in 2014.
“To see her and my parents deal with cancer on a daily basis was awful,” he says. “So we got even more involved in Candlelighters. After that, we wanted to be the primary sponsor for all of their events.”
In 2015, the dealership increased its donations and continued doing whatever it could to raise money for the nonprofit.
That meant a head-shaving event in which Candlelighters kids cut the hair of Centennial employees.
That meant putting out a giant change jar and wearing Candlelighters t-shirts every Friday to get customers asking. Anything to help with costs for the charity’s annual 5k run and other events.
And now, when you ask Woods how many employees are contributing this year, he answers proudly: “We have 135 employees and all of them participate in some way.”
In that first meeting, Candlelighters made the point that no dollar is wasted when it comes to helping kids.
“We wanted the employees to understand that everything they do for us big or small, helps these families,” says Kelly Webb, Candlelighters development and communications manager. “The employees have gone above and beyond by creating a huge support system for Candlelighters.”
And that’s by design.
“Every year, we want to be the biggest supporter of Candlelighters,” Woods says. “We want to give them the most resources, and we want to have fun with it.”