Many tire dealers have a track record for backing charitable causes, but perhaps none touches their hearts more than when it involves one of their own.
Dealers from all over the U.S. have shown generosity and support to former tire dealer Jackie McGuirt, who was shot at his dealership and left for dead by an armed robber last November. Mr. McGuirt is now paralyzed from the underarms down from that gunshot wound and has since sold his business, McGuirt Tire & Service in Ridgeway.
Because Mr. McGuirt and his family have no health insurance, a few of his friends including David Crocker, a Heafner Tire Group customer service representative, organized a March 18 golf outing to help raise money for his medical expenses. That outing, held at the University Club in Blythewood, S.C., turned out more participants than Mr. Crocker could have hoped for, as 224 golfers and 50 volunteers took part.
And if that wasn't enough, some prospective golfers were turned down because the golf course was full, he said.
``We probably had 50 more people that wanted to participate, but we just couldn't get them in,'' he told Tire Business. He said many are willing to come back next year to golf again for Mr. McGuirt, who after a 97-day stay at a spinal rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta, was able to attend the tournament and personally thank everyone for participating.
Many of the teams and holes were sponsored by tire dealers or companies, according to Mr. Crocker, who called the tournament ``phenomenal.'' Larry Sharpe, president of Blythewood Oil in Blythewood, S.C., and another golf tournament organizer, said six tire dealerships played in the outing. He said a total of $52,000 was raised from the event, which included contributions from Mr. McGuirt's hometown.
Michelin North America Inc. sponsored eight teams, said Mr. Sharpe, who didn't have a breakdown of other tire companies that sponsored teams and/or holes.
Following a Feb. 18 story in Tire Business that profiled Mr. McGuirt's plight, Mr. Crocker said many within the tire industry contacted him, either about donating to a tax-deductible fund set up by Heafner for Mr. McGuirt, or sponsoring a hole at the tournament. One of those, Hercules Tire & Rubber Co. President Craig Anderson, e-mailed Mr. Crocker and wrote: ``We don't know Jackie McGuirt, he's not a customer of ours, but we want to do something. We'll sponsor a hole.''
``I'm totally amazed,'' Mr. Crocker said of the response from dealers and others. ``It's wonderful to see the people in this industry reaching out and helping.''
Susan McGuirt, Mr. McGuirt's daughter, said at least 30 tire dealers across the U.S. have contributed on behalf of her father. Donations to the fund established by Heafner through the Bank of Ridgeway have come from dealers in California, Missouri, Michigan, Florida and Illinois, among others. Many donors included notes with their contributions, she said.
``They were inspired and touched by his faith and his determination,'' she said of the messages to her father. ``A lot of them were Christians themselves, and it just touched them that he was so determined and that he wasn't angry. They didn't know if they would feel that way.''
Ms. McGuirt said the amount of money raised so far is enough for her family to buy a specially equipped van with a wheelchair lift that her father also could possibly drive someday.
Donations to the Jackie McGuirt fund via the Bank of Ridgeway will be taken through the end of the year, according to Herbert Humphries, the bank's vice president.
Mr. McGuirt said he feels overwhelmed by the support and good wishes from his fellow dealers. He came home from the hospital Feb. 28 and has enjoyed reading comments that dealers who either donated to the Heafner fund or to the golf tournament have written to him.
``I was touched by the response from the tire dealers,'' Mr. McGuirt said. ``I just couldn't believe that people from California and Ohio, and places like that would take their time to sit down and just write me a note or a letter.''
``I thank all of them for their support,'' he added. ``Some of them have said they've been in business a long time and they understand what's going on with me and are praying for me.''
He undergoes therapy three times a week at a rehab facility in Columbia, S.C., about 24 miles from his house. A nurse comes to his home three times a week to help care for some of his needs, and he just received a new wheelchair. He's also had a recent bout of tennis elbow, an inflammation of the elbow's tendons, which has slowed his therapy.
``With spinal cord injuries, you make improvements, but it's not like you see a big difference from one day to the next,'' Mr. McGuirt said. ``It's just a real slow process. I think I was patient before this happened, but (the paralysis) has taught me a lot more about patience.''