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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.

Basketball Giveaway!

Kids these days are spending way too much time indoors. There are just too many electronic distractions: video games, social media, television, to name a few. It’s actually possible for children to spend an entire day in their room and not be bored for a minute.

The classic conundrum of “What to do on a rainy day?” is a relic of the past, as is the once-common dread of the order,kids playing basketball “Go to your room!” Staying in is much too much fun!

Of course, this is not great news. Playing outdoors is vital for children’s development and overall health. It contributes to imaginative stimulation, strength development, social development, and stress reduction. Even vitamin D is mainly acquired from sunlight.

While we cannot dream of singlehandedly solving this problem and competing with all these indoor entertainments, we at Kars4Kids are trying to level the playing field a bit, so to speak.

So we’re luring kids outside with attractive bait – basketballs! By putting basketballs in kids’ hands throughout the country, we’re hoping that this will entice them to leave their rooms and step out.

Once outside, all they need to do is find a court and a hoop, and they’re ready to go! They’ll discover that there’s an entire world outdoors that they can run in, play in, and go wherever their imagination leads them. For all we know, the only basketball games that they’ve been playing until now were computer simulations!

So, if you know of any kids that never seem to see the light of day, go to our website, http://www.kars4kidsgives.org/, and claim your free basketball.

We’re not providing the court, though. With all the kids indoors, we think that there are plenty available!

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Kars4Kids Internship Program

Internship imagePreparing people for successful lives is one of Kars4Kids’ main goals. With that in mind, Kars4Kids started a new internship program this summer. Participants in our program work right alongside seasoned professionals, gaining real work experience in their respective fields

Our interns are experiencing a winning combination of working, learning, and fun. They’re discovering the Kars4Kids’ culture of teamwork and creative collaboration – and our great lunches!

We have nine interns with us, and they’re working in a very wide range of fields. Kars4Kids is providing internships in accounting, computer programming, SEO, marketing, building management and finance.

Josh in marketing is giving his interns a wide-ranging introduction to many areas of marketing – meeting with the legal department, brainstorming on marketing campaigns, working on a new website, among other projects.

David, our CFO, is introducing accounting interns to the unique accounting issues of non-profits. They’re becoming familiar with Form 990 (the federal tax return for charities), and looking at profit and loss statements of different programs here at Kars4Kids.

In the SEO department, Morris, one of our SEO’s, is working with an intern to find top “influencers” on social media to link to our sites. He’s also boosting views of Facebook posts by strategic posting of images, and will work on getting a marketing campaign to go viral.

In the finance department, Eli is introducing “his” intern to the world of real estate investments, and will speak to all the interns as a group next week.

One marketing intern remarked, “We’re learning so fast and so much, we’ll probably only realize afterward how much we really learned.”

Meet the Kars4Kids Staff: Eli

Eli Fried is our real estate specialist here at Kars4Kids.

Hi, Eli! What do you do here at Kars4Kids?

I’m in charge of the Real Estate Donations Department. I mostly review the properties of potential real estate donations. I need to make sure they can actually benefit us before we accept.

Some properties might actually be a liability because taxes or maintenance costs, and have very little resale value.

I’m also involved with other financial aspects of Kars4Kids, like mortgages and endowments.

Can you describe your background?

Sure! I’ve actually been investing since high school. When my mother saw I was interested in finance, she bought me a copy of “Investing for Dummies.” After reading that, I sold 100 shares of Citibank stock which I had received as a gift and reinvested the money in various securities. That was my start in investing!

I eventually went into real estate investing. I was involved in real estate investments for about 10 years before I came to Kars4Kids. I dealt with buying and selling commercial properties.

I also read a lot. In all, I’d say I’ve read over 100 books on economics, investing, and finance.

Can you tell us about any unusual donations you were offered here?

We were once offered property in Hawaii that was actually destroyed by a volcano! The property was worthless because the volcano is still active, making any practical use of the land impossible.

Another time, someone wanted to donate a bad investment that he bought: an abandoned brake factory! Nothing could be developed on that land because of all the industrial waste.

What do you do for fun?

I like reading. I have a subscription to “The Economist,” which I read scrupulously. I also enjoy learning about science and technology.

In my off-time I like to spend time with my family and find quiet spots for contemplation.

Thank you, Eli!