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In 2014, Special Olympics BC is honoured to celebrate the 30-year relationship between our movement and the New Car Dealers of BC, a much-appreciated partnership that has played such a critical part in SOBC’s significant growth over the last three decades.

In 1984, Harry “Red” Foster, the noted broadcaster and founding champion of Special Olympics Canada, brought the story of Special Olympics to a meeting of the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association. Howard Carter was so touched and inspired that he knew he had to get the automotive community involved with Special Olympics. Upon his return to B.C. from those meetings, he spoke with other dealers about truly making a difference with Special Olympics.

In the fall of 1984, what was then called the B.C. Automobile Dealers Association became a sponsor of SOBC, and Howard joined the Board of Directors of Special Olympics Canada the following year. Coincidentally, he was also the chair of the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association, a position that provided him with a great opportunity to build the relationship between these two organizations.

In the early years of the relationship, the Special Olympics organization was just building in BC, and dealers provided incredibly important for a variety of initiatives. As SOBC was building its provincial reach, dealers would provide transportation to staff when they visited communities looking to start or build programs. Dealers also donated funds to SOBC.

In 1987, dealer support for SOBC focused on a major fundraising initiative. Sherrold Haddad chaired the first Casino Auction in support of SOBC, an event that raised $50,000. In its second year, the Casino Auction grew substantially, raising $120,000.

It was a true loss to everyone including the automotive community and SOBC when Howard Carter passed away in 1988. Howard was a great leader and believed strongly in the power of the automotive community working together to create change. Howard was so respected that his friends and peers from the automotive industry created an endowment fund for SOBC in Howard’s name. Today, the Howard Carter Fund has grown to approximately $750,000 and provides ongoing revenue to SOBC to support its programs and initiatives.

In 1990, SOBC hosted the Special Olympics Canada Summer Games. Again, Special Olympics turned to the automotive community for support, and dealers generously responded to help make the first National Games in our province a truly remarkable event. George Preston stepped forward and volunteered to take on the position of Chair of the Games Organizing Committee, and the Games was an outstanding success.

In 2014, the National Games will return to our province for the first time since 1990. Reflecting this year on SOBC’s 30-year relationship with the New Car Dealers Association of B.C. shows how very far we’ve come together.

From what began as a handful of weekend events, the SOBC organization has grown considerably to where today it provides year-round sport training and competition in 55 communities around the province. More than 4,200 individuals with an intellectual disability train in one or more of the 18 sports offered, and more than 3,300 volunteers joyfully give their time and skills to help SOBC athletes thrive through Special Olympics.

With the help of the vital support from B.C.’s New Car Dealers, SOBC has grown significantly over the past 30 years both in the number of communities we serve, and in the scope of our initiatives to help athletes. We are focused on getting more individuals with an intellectual disability active and involved.

Athletes as young as two years of age now benefit from programs that focus on vital motor and sport skills, and developing a love for sport. From this early age right through to those who are in the 80s, SOBC athletes benefit greatly from their involvement, and are being supported and encouraged to improve their health and wellbeing while enjoying fun and friendship through sport.

As SOBC has grown and expanded, the support provided by B.C.’s New Car Dealers has grown and changed too. In the late 1990s, seeking to expand the auction so that dealers outside the Lower Mainland could participate, the dinner/auction began the transition from an event to what is now an online auction. Under the committee chaired by Tom Harris, this transition started in 1998 with dealers bidding by phone, email, or fax the first year.

Over the next couple of years, bidding by fax and email were replaced with bidding online through a dedicated auction website. Throughout the technological changes, the New Car Dealers Foundation of B.C./Special Olympics Auction remains a very successful initiative that provides significant funding to SOBC.

In addition to the auction, dealers continue to support SOBC in a number of different ways including hosting fundraising events, making donations, generating awareness, or soliciting volunteers.

It was Howard Carter’s dream to have the automotive community involved with SOBC, and now, 30 years later, his dream lives stronger than ever.

Marnie and Howard Carter