The Car that Came Without a Key

Recently, someone called to donate a car. He explained to Amy, the rep, that he has to donate the car without a key. Would that be OK?

“Of course!” Amy answered. “But what happened to the key?”

“Well,” the donor explained, “it’s a long story.”

Amy assured the man that Kars4Kids always has time to listen to donors! And so the man began his tale.

It was a cold morning. When the man awoke, he could see his breath. The fireplace was cold, the fire having burnt out in the middle of the night. The man hurriedly dressed, putting on his hat and scarf, and then started the fire again to prepare some coffee.

While the water heated up, he put on the rest of his outfit. First, he put on his black cape, fastening it to his coat’s shoulders. Then on went his special boots with wings on the ankles. The kettle whistled, and he poured his coffee carefully into his big thermos, which he put inside his coat. His ate a quick breakfast of biscuits and drank the rest of the coffee. It was time to start the day.

He trudged through the snow on the forest path. Few people ever saw him, and no one knew that he lived in the cabin in the woods. But Carl (that was his name) liked it that way. He wasn’t looking for fame. He went about his work quietly, without fanfare. The mission was what was important. Everything else was inconsequential.

small cabin in woods

He never knew what his mission will be each day. His routine was always the same. He walked through the town of Spencer, Massachusetts and its environs, waiting for a sign. The sign was always different, and the missions were always unique.

Today, he was making his way to Cranberry Meadow Pond. He had never worked that part of town. It was a few miles away, and it was cold, but he never let things like that get in the way.

The sky was clear, and it was quiet. His special boots crunched the newly fallen snow. He would have like it to be a little windier so his cape can billow about him, though.

He was now on Cranberry Meadow Road. He stayed alert, looking around for anything out of the ordinary. Everything looked normal. But, wait – what was that man doing in his driveway? He was trying to start a car, it seemed. And he looked unhappy. Carl’s mission began to take shape.

“Good morning!” he called to the man in the driveway. “That’s a beautiful car you got there!”

It was a 2002 Mercury Grand Marquis.

“Well,” the man answered, glumly. “It used to start, too!”

Carl stood there, looking at the car. His mission, it was clear to him now, was to cheer this man up.

“If I were you, I would be real happy to have a car like that! They just don’t make cars like that anymore! Yes siree, I would be real happy with that car.”

The man in the car laughed. “Well, the only thing I can think to do with this car is to give it to Kars4Kids. This way I can get a maximum tax deduction and a free two night, three day hotel stay! At least someone will benefit, in some way.”

Carl was getting impatient with his attitude. “If you don’t think it’s any good, I’ll buy it from you,” he offered.

“Ha! What are you going to do with it? It doesn’t start!”

“I’m a mechanic!” Carl blurted out. “I’ll take it off your hands for 200 dollars.”

“200 dollars!” the man repeated, incredulous. “The vacation voucher is definitely worth more than that! Not to mention the tax deduction. Oh no, I won’t go less than 500,” he declared.

After haggling back and forth, he eventually agreed to sell it to Carl for 400 dollars, and they shook hands on the deal.

“So, how are you going to bring it to your shop?”

“Shop?” Carl was caught off guard. “Oh, just give the key and I’ll bring my truck by later.”

The man looked at Carl suspiciously, eyeing his cape and boots. “Where is your shop anyway?”

“In town.”

The man thought for a few moments. “All right, here’s the key. You can bring the money when you pick up the car.”

Carl thanked him and started walking back up Cranberry Meadow Road. He took out his thermos and took a swig of coffee. The man looked much happier. Mission accomplished!

“And so,” the man told Amy. “It’s been six months and I never saw him again. So that’s why there’s no key. I guess the kids are going to get the car after all!”

funny rv

Kars4Kids Donations: Behind the Scenes

We at Kars4Kids decided to investigate the more unusual donations that we received. What we found was that the stories behind the donations were often as interesting as the donations themselves.

Here is one of those stories.

It was 11 am. Greg had long left for work, and Sue logged in to her email. She went through the usual stuff – the special offers, diet ideas, fitness news, and the corny jokes her sister like to send her. Then she frowned. There it was again.

It was an email from Steve, an acquaintance from her college days. Even though she knew what it was about, she opened it anyway. As she read it, she rolled her eyes. “Hi Sue! I’m about to make partner at my law firm! When are you going to ditch that loser husband of yours and marry me?”

She rolled her eyes. While Greg was not a millionaire, he was a nice guy, which was more that she could say about Steve. Steve was a lawyer, and apparently was a very good one. But Sue could never stomach his sleazy, opportunistic personality. Greg was simple but hard-working. He worked very hard at his job in road construction, and he was due to be promoted to foreman soon. Sue deleted the email.

To Sue, financial security overrode fun. She and Greg never went on vacation or made indulgent purchases of any kind. Whatever money Greg had left over at the end of the month was put away in a special savings account. When they had enough, they were going to use it as a down payment on a two-family house. Sue and Greg would be living on the second floor, and rent out the ground floor to cover the mortgage.

Sue continued her routine of the day, going to her favorite sites for news of special bargains and giveaways. She left for her morning jog, and when she returned, the mail had arrived. She began going through it, and then stopped, puzzled. What was this bill? For storage fees? What were they paying storage fees for?

eagle rv

To her great surprise, Greg seemed flustered when she asked him about the bill when he came home. After some beating around the bush, he finally told her what it was about.

Greg’s dream (which he never had shared with Sue) was to travel around the country in an RV. He had been putting away money for years to buy one. Finally, together with a large loan, he had enough to buy a large coach bus. It was in storage for the past sixth months, because he was saving money for the next part of the project, which was to convert it to an RV.

“This is besides the money for the down payment?” Sue asked, confused.

Greg turned red, but explained that he was pretty happy in this house. He would rather travel.

It took Sue a full minute to find her voice. When she did, what happened next could only be described as a full-blown meltdown. Greg was sure he had never heard such loud screaming in his life. He was actually afraid that he would suffer permanent hearing loss.

Wife Throwing Her Husband Out of the House

Sue gave Greg 20 minutes to pack his things and leave. Then she logged into her email.

“Hi Steve,” she wrote. “I need a lawyer.”

If Sue thought Steve was sleazy before, she now realized he was an absolute snake. She never saw the professional side to him, but she was glad he was on her side.

Unfortunately, the judge turned out to have known Steve from previous cases, and didn’t seem to like him that much. In an ironic twist, Greg was awarded the house, and Sue – the bus.

After the verdict, outside the court house, Steve attempted to save face. “Listen, this judge just had it in for me. You really got off well, considering!”

Sue didn’t think that deserved a reply. It was starting to rain, and she needed to be alone.

Sue drove home in the rain with mixed feelings. While she was still very angry at Greg, she did feel bad that it ended this way. He was a very nice guy, after all. Of course, there was no way that she could ever live with someone so financially irresponsible. But, thanks to Steve, she was now stuck with the useless bus. How could she keep it now? Every time she would see it, it would remind her of Greg!

Sue turned on the radio, hoping to cheer up. She smiled as her favorite advertisement came on. She loved this jingle! She began to sing along: “1-8-7-7 Kars4Kids, K-A-R-S Kars4Kids…”

Suddenly Sue knew what to do – she would donate the bus! This way, at least the children would benefit from this whole mess. Sue was smiling widely now. The sun was shining through the clouds, and the future looked a lot brighter.

Meet Gregory

Gregory works in our operations department here at Kars4Kids.

Hi, Greg! Can you please describe what you do here at Kars4Kids?

I work in operations. I assign cars to different sellers, hire new towing companies and approve bids of sales of cars.

What unique qualities do you feel that you bring to Kars4Kids?

Well, I tend to think out of the box. I come from a different country so I look at things a little differently.

What would you say is the most fun thing about working for Kars4Kids?

Well, I like the atmosphere around here. People are very spontaneous. Like, we once had our computer system crash, so we weren’t able to do our regular work. Someone took out a guitar and we had an impromptu mini-concert!

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I was born in Russia. To make it short, life there was not fun! I was beaten up a lot for being Jewish, and I was lucky to be able to escape to America.

I studied here for a few years, and then worked in a series of jobs before I came to Kars4Kids.

What type of work did you do?

Being a young immigrant I took any job that enabled me to support myself.

I started working in a takeout store. I then worked as an assistant manager in a supermarket for a few years, and then helped my friend open a pizza shop. Afterward, I worked for a local pharmacy chain and then opened two new pharmacies. For a few years after that I managed a restaurant.  Afterward, I went on to become director of operations of a nonprofit educational kids’ project. And finally I came here!

What would you say is your favorite job of all?

Right here at Kars4Kids! And I’ll tell you why – this is not the best paying job I ever had, but it is definitely the most meaningful. When I work here I know that the fruits of my work will help a child.

Hurray for us!

What do you like to do in your time off?

I like to spend time with my family, read, travel, and cook. But not necessarily in that order.

What would your ideal vacation be?

I love archaeological, cultural, and historical travel, especially in the Middle East.

Sounds cool!  Thanks for a fascinating interview, Greg!


From the Unsolved Kases of Kars4Kids

It was a typical, busy day at Kars4Kids, when Nellie, one of the customer service reps picked up the phone. On the line was a potential donor, or so he claimed. He said his name was Gregory Wilson III, and he wanted to donate a 2003 Mercedes-Benz.

“Gregory” asked about the donation process, and when Nellie informed him that Kars4Kids gives a complimentary hotel voucher for each car donated, he then expressed interest in donating a second car, a ‘70’s classic. He stipulated, however, that the cars be picked up after 2 p.m., so his grandfather, Gregory Wilson, “won’t get mad.”

Suspicious, Nellie said she will need to speak with the grandfather before Kars4Kids will take the cars. “Gregory” gave the rep his grandfather’s number, but asked that the vouchers go to him.

When Nellie called, the man who answered confirmed that he was Gregory Wilson, “Gregory Wilson III’s” grandfather, and although initially puzzled, agreed to consider donating his cars. They left off the conversation with Nellie agreeing to call back the following Monday to confirm the donation.

A short time later Nellie got another call. This time, it was someone identifying himself as “Hector Gonzalez,” from Mexico. The car he was offering to donate was not something that Kars4Kids typically gets: a 2015 Rolls-Royce. But, he needed it picked up that day, in Mexico. Nellie then asked for the VIN, and when she ran it, it turned out it was a 1989, not a 2015. “Hector” admitted he lied about the year to make it more “juicy.” He also said it featured “suicide doors” and was damaged with bullet holes.

When he was told the car won’t be able to be picked up that day, “Hector” insisted he can’t wait. At that point, Kars4Kids decided it was just a prank, and cancelled the donation.

Nellie then noted that the caller I.D.’s of both donors, the Benz and the Rolls, were identical. When she tried following up on the Benz donation the following Monday, she couldn’t get through, and wrote the whole thing off as a hoax.

These are the facts of the case, based on interviews conducted in the Kars4Kids office and on computer records.

Now, almost all prank donations follow the same pattern: someone calls with an outlandish-sounding donation, like a Ferrari or a late model vehicle with low mileage, and when asked for identifying information usually hangs up. Or the address they provide doesn’t exist.

These cases don’t fit the pattern at all. First of all, the first caller gave a name and a legitimate address (a car dealer in California). He also provided a real telephone number, and the person who answered actually appeared to be the donor’s grandfather.

The second call, the Rolls, also was very atypical for a prank. Even though the type of car he was offering, a Rolls-Royce, is usually the stuff of hoaxes, “Hector” was able to provide an actual VIN. The vehicle identification number, or VIN, is a seventeen digit combination of letters and numbers. There is a different VIN assigned to each car made. It’s impossible to make up a VIN.

So, what happened? Was it just an elaborate prank? Or was someone actually desperate to get a bullet-ridden Rolls-Royce across the border from Mexico to the US? But why would the same person, under a different name, want to donate a late model Mercedes in California?

These questions may ultimately be left unanswered. But there is one final clue that might shed light on the matter. The name of the first “donor” was given as Gregory Wilson III. A quick internet search brings up a Wikipedia entry describing Wilson as “an American magician… also known as ‘The Honest Conman’… a magician specializing in close-up magic, sleight-of-hand, and confidence trickery.” He even describes himself as a “deceptionist.”

Was Wilson really pranking Kars4Kids? Or did someone else, someone unknown, use Wilson’s name for some other reason?

Kars4Kids Kase #3555. Status: UNRESOLVED

asthma and basketball

Asthma and Basketball

Having asthma can be challenging for anyone, especially children. Asthma can result in sudden breathing difficulties, and asthma attacks can be quite frightening. As a matter of fact, child asthmatics were once discouraged from participating in strenuous exercise. Now, however, that’s no longer the case.

Asthma is a condition that affects breathing. During an asthma attack, the bronchial tubes swell and narrow, making breathing difficult. Symptoms can include wheezing, coughing, and tightness in the chest. The usual remedy for an attack is medication taken through an inhaler, but getting back to normal can take a few days.

So the question is: should a child with asthma be playing basketball?

Asthma is usually triggered by impurities in the air. Common triggers are dust, pollen, mold, cigarette smoke, perfume and chalk dust. Since most of these of these triggers are actually found indoors, it would seem that there is less risk of an attack outside.

playing basketball

In other words, there is no “asthma-free” zone. But overall, the outdoors has fewer asthma triggers than indoors does.

Not only are there fewer triggers outdoors, but playing sports has other benefits for asthma sufferers as well. Being active reportedly helps lungs get stronger. This is quite beneficial for anyone with asthma. So playing sports outside may be just what the doctor ordered!

But, there are certain precautions children with asthma should take when they play sports outside. Asthmatics should not be outside when there’s a lot of pollen in the air. They also should make an effort to breathe through their nose instead of their mouth while exercising. This will filter the air through the nasal passages before it gets to the lungs. Having a careful warm-up and cool-down is also very important, as is letting fellow players know about the asthmatic’s condition.

So, by playing it safe, kids with asthma can have a lot of fun and great exercise playing basketball. So go to Kars4Kids and claim your free basketball!

This article should not be a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have asthma and want to participate in any sport or exercise, please speak to your doctor.

making a viral video

The Secret of Virality

By Rina Gestetner

I used to ponder the magic formula that makes a video go viral. Is it the title of the video, or the content? Do people like funny, ironic, or inspiring? Is it just a matter of chance, or does it take trial and error? I never thought I’d get the chance to see it happen…

A short while ago, my team and I sat in the conference room at the Kars4Kids office, brainstorming for a way to promote our Safety App which reminds parents not to forget their kids in the car. A host of ideas were brought to the table, as it always happens when the team gets together. Many cups of coffee later, a new idea took root and we scrapped all of our former “epiphanies”: What if we were to host a social experiment that put the adult in the shoes of the child who’s locked in that hot car? And so was born our viral video.

Our app developers got to work perfecting the app, making it as user-friendly as possible.

And as our app developers worked on the app, our web programmers built a beautiful webpage, designed to present the app and the video.viral video

And as our web designers built the webpage, our media team got to work on the video, choosing the perfect day, hiring a videographer, and dealing with the legal department (Darn you, legal!).

And as our media team worked on the video, our public relations team began outreaching to various news sites, informing them of the campaign and prepping them for the video’s release.

And when the app developers finished the app, the web programmers finished the page, the media team finished the video, and the public relations team finished their outreach, it was time to sit back and wait…

1.5 million views later, I no longer ponder the magic formula that makes a video go viral. I know what it takes, because I’ve seen it happen. It wasn’t the title, the content, the theme, or mere luck. It was a team working cohesively, each contributing their own set of talents and skills, setting everything in place just so – bringing you the Kars4Kids Hot Kar Challenge.

The Lost Hero

terminator harper lee

The novel To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize, and is considered to be a classic of American literature.

The protagonist, or at least one of the principal characters in the book, is Atticus Finch. A small-town lawyer, he takes on the defense of a black man accused of a heinous crime. In the face of popular opposition to his cause, he nonetheless follows what he believes is the correct moral path.

Since 1960, Harper Lee has not published a single book. So the hype surrounding the publication of her “lost novel,” Go Set a Watchman, is to be expected.

What is very unexpected, though, is the character of Atticus Finch. While in Mockingbird he was a principled man, who defended a black man in opposition to popular sentiment, in Watchman he somehow turned into a racist who is strongly opposed to desegregation.

With the publication of Harper Lee’s new book, people are having an interesting reaction. Readers are both excited about reading another novel featuring the beloved characters of To Kill a Mockingbird. But, at the same time, there’s a feeling of disappointment. Not in the book itself, which by all accounts is a worthy companion to Mockingbird, but in the revelation of Atticus’s true nature.

Why are people upset? The novel is great!

We need heroes, badly. Heroes are people who accomplish what we dream about doing, and do it superbly. They’re role models, too, who teach us how to act by example. We consciously and subconsciously ask ourselves, what would my hero do here?

Without heroes, we can be uninspired, or unable to believe that we can truly make a difference. Heroes make things possible!

Perhaps that’s why people are having such strong reactions to revelations that Atticus Finch does not have the pure, good character that he was portrayed as having in To Kill a Mockingbird. They lost sight of their North Star. They lost a hero.

Children, in particular, are naturally drawn to heroes. They will obsessively follow athletes, musicians, and fictional characters of all kinds. But, almost like newly-hatched chicks, they tend to fixate on whomever they see first. They can’t always differentiate between genuine, “heroic” heroes, and charismatic characters who are the last choice we want to be our kids’ role models.

So, how do we ensure that our kids have the right heroes? While we can’t really make that choice for children, we can guide them. We can see to it that they have good heroes to choose from.

That’s why we have to provide our kids with the right books, the right heroes. We have to understand the power of stories, and stories about heroes, in particular. They’re not just entertainment.