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Used Car Dealers Come Together for Charity

By Jeffrey Bellant November 26, 2019

The CIADA Charity Fund Gala, created by the Colorado Independent Automobile Dealers Association, held its sixth annual event at the Denver Marriott Tech Center, and the results are eye-popping.

Former dealer David Cardella, who has been part of the charity’s board of directors since its inception, said people were skeptical that the event could continue over a long period of time.

“When we started, we were told this would run its course after three years,” Cardella said. “But at this year’s event (on Nov. 16), we had our largest attendance, with a little more than 400 people.

“We raised over $240,000 that evening.”

That was in one night.

To pull it off, CIADA solicits friends of the industry — banks, credit unions, floorplan companies, auctions, etc. — to help sponsor the event.

“We have a sit-down plated dinner where we charge $100 to attend. But the majority of that money mostly goes to the cost of the dinner,” Cardella said.

The rest of the event is what breaks the bank in fundraising.

Cardella wants to make clear how much vendors, dealers and other industry partners donate to make the event possible.

“That’s all donated,” he said. “None of that is purchased by the charity. All of it is donated by our members to help raise money.

“We also have a silent auction and a live auction, This year we had about 80 silent auction items contributed and another 35 live auction items.”

Live auction items include a variety of items, ranging from custom-made furniture, to sporting tickets to a 40th anniversary 1993 Chevrolet Corvette.

The Corvette was the most coveted item, raising $10,000 alone.

But other auction items included tickets for the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and courtside tickets to see the Denver Nuggets.

“Unfortunately, the Denver Broncos tickets didn’t do as well,” Cardella said. The Broncos were 3-7 at press time.

Sports memorabilia included a signed football from Broncos player Chris Harris and a signed photo of Joe Sakic, a 13-time NHL All-Star for the Avalanche.

“We had a trip to Italy and a trip to Cabo San Lucas,” he said. “Again, everything is donated for us to raise money for the charities.”

The origins of the event go back to a discussion the Colorado IADA’s leaders had years ago when it decided to stop holding a state convention.

“We do this in lieu of a state convention,” said Cardella, who is transitioning to be the group’s next CEO when Todd O’Connell, the current CEO, steps down.

Cardella said the association felt the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association Convention & Expo provides so much education and vendors, that a state event wasn’t needed.

Plus, having a state convention forces dealers to leave or close their business twice for multiple days if they wanted to attend two shows.

“It seems that’s why so many states struggle with attendance at their shows,” he said.

So, six years ago, the association decided to create a one-day event to bring dealers together for charity, that also would allow members to funnel all of their charitable giving into this one event, as opposed to various local groups.

The event begins with the Used Car Dealers of Colorado Charity Fund, founded in 2014. The group’s web site states “The CIADA charity fund exists to represent the goodwill of Independent Used Car Dealers to help all Colorado communities with aid, scholarships and support in order to make a positive difference with families of Colorado.”

The group has a charity board which vets every request that comes in. Cardella is a former president of the board, which is now led by Dean Gunter. Gunter is also president of the Colorado IADA.

Cardella, Gunter and Stan Martin were founding members of the charity, followed by Tim Gaylord. The board now has nine members, Cardella said.

Every charitable request is vetted by the board members and seven of the board members have to be members of the dealer association board. Two members are non-members but are friends of the industry.

“Over the course of the year, they may look at 50 charities,” Cardella said. “Of course, we also give out scholarships. We’ve given out over $92,000 in scholarships over the past five years.”

During a typical year, the group donates to about 30 charities.

The board looks for groups that may not get help from other sources.

“We stay away from charities that are getting federal money or grants because we feel they don’t need our help,” Cardella said.

All of the money stays in Colorado.

The board also targets one specific charity as a special “fund in need” that it feels is doing exceptional work in the local community and needs extra help, Cardella said.

Some past recipients include Treasure House of Hope, which helps people with addictions; Adopt Kids Colorado; and Sox Place, a charity formed by a father and son that takes in young adults living on the street.

‘This year, our fund in need was a place called Sarah’s Home, which takes in young girls from the ages 12 to 17, who have escaped from the sex-trafficking industry.”

Cardella said these groups provide powerful testimonies.

Amazingly, that gift is separate from money raised by the sponsors, tickets, silent and live auctions.

As the annual gala comes to a close, the group asks attendees to watch a video about that year’s fund in need. This year, it was Sarah’s House.

“You can’t help but be moved by these groups,” he said. “I believe we raised almost $50,000 for that group.”

The event has always done well, but has grown since its first year, when it raised $108,000.

The Colorado IADA still took time to honor its own at the event by naming this year’s Colorado Quality Dealer of the Year — Mike Widhalm, owner of Red’s Auto & Truck in Longmont, Colo.

“He’s the one who donated the Corvette,” Cardella said. “Last year he donated a ’91 Corvette. I think the year before he donated a Harley.

“We’ve always had a good buy-in from the members.”

The event had an impact on first timers who attended the gala.

“So many people came up to us, saying ‘I’m so sorry I haven’t been here the past five years. I will never miss another one of these,’” Cardella said.

Board members from other IADAs, like Ohio’s state president Scott Welch and Joe Mok, president of the Illinois IADA, attended the gala, Cardella said.

This year, the general manager of a local news station attended and that may draw even more attention and donations to the event.

“He was just blown away by what we’ve done,” Cardella said. “Most people don’t have any idea about what’s taking place.

“It’s an event like nothing you’ve experienced before.”


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Last modified on Tuesday, 26 November 2019 14:19