RICHMOND, Va. — When was the last time someone reacted to something you said or did with a three-second wow?
Mark Smith had one of those wow moments he never will forget. The Midas of Richmond dealer was out on a Thursday, delivering backpacks filled with snacks and healthy foods to chronically hungry kids in Central Virginia. The food helps feed children from the time they leave school on Friday afternoon to when they return on Monday morning.
One of the kids jumped on the bumper of his Toyota Tundra, ran his fingers across as many of the backpacks as he could, exclaiming, "Wowwwww."
That experience was so heartfelt that Mr. Smith turned the episode into a radio spot: "When was the last time you had a three-second wow?" he asks. "This is a wow about feeding chronically hungry kids."
It turns out Mr. Smith has provided Richmond, his adopted home for the last two decades, plenty of wow-worthy moments while supporting a handful of nonprofits.
It started on Sept. 12, 2001 — the day after the infamous terrorist attacks on New York and Washington and in Pennsylvania — when, as a "total knee-jerk reaction" to the events of the previous day, he suggested the crazy notion of offering free oil changes to anyone who came out to his shop and donated blood to Virginia Blood Services (VBS) in anticipation of unprecedented need.
Would people come out? Would they be motivated by a free oil change to donate their time and blood to a worthy cause?
Nearly two decades later, Mr. Smith's blood drives — now held five times a year at each of his four Midas of Richmond locations — supply 2.5 percent of the blood supply for Central Virginia.
His continuing charitable work with VBS — he recently began offering a coupon for a free tire to those who donate platelets to the organization — certainly provided enough of a resume of his philanthropic endeavors for an independent panel to name Mr. Smith the 2018 winner of the Tire Business Tire Dealer Humanitarian Award.
The 25th recipient of the prestigious award, Mr. Smith received the Humanitarian medal, as well as a $2,500 donation from Tire Business to the charity of his choice, on Oct. 29 at the Tire Industry Association's (TIA) Honors awards ceremony, held at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas.
Mr. Smith credits his passion — he calls it the "power of the possible" — for the impetus behind his becoming so heavily involved in the betterment of the greater Richmond community.
"We're all in the commodity business," he said, while eating lunch at an upscale Richmond-area burger restaurant recently.
"I do oil changes. These guys serve burgers. What separates the people that do it really well from everybody else?" he asked.