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Through their many years of involvement with Special Olympics BC and the New Car Dealers Association of BC, Ken and Dianne Griffith have been eloquent and vocal supporters of Special Olympics athletes, and their next generation is continuing the tradition.

The owners of Richport Ford and Signature Mazda, Ken and Dianne Griffith were instrumental in the early years of the New Car Dealers Foundation / Special Olympics BC Auction, generously assisting with item solicitation, cash prizes, vehicle donations, and event logistics when the auction was a gala evening affair. Their children, Deryl and Vikki, are now working in the industry themselves and Deryl is continuing the family’s kind support of Special Olympics by assisting with solicitation of auction items and cash donations.

Ken and Dianne Griffith have seen firsthand how much athletes with intellectual disabilities appreciate the opportunities they have with Special Olympics, and the support they receive from sponsors such as BC’s New Car Dealers.

“With our involvement over the years, we really do have an appreciation of what Special Olympics represents to these committed athletes. We’ve been to a number of functions over the years, and when you see the appreciation from these athletes toward the whole Special Olympics process, it’s just unbelievable,” Ken Griffith says.

“It’s been a very big part of our lives, being part of Special Olympics BC,” Dianne Griffith said.

He and Dianne got involved initially because of their active involvement with the auto industry and the relationship between B.C.’s New Car Dealers and Special Olympics. Their own work in the industry grew in parallel with the relationship that bloomed between the New Car Dealers and SOBC; after getting into the industry in 1970, they purchased Richport Ford in 1986, around the time there was a great deal happening around the development of the New Car Dealers Association and the relationship with Special Olympics. “It embraced us,” Ken Griffith said. “The timing was perfect.” They purchased Signature Mazda in 2000, now the top Mazda dealership in Western Canada.

When Ken and Dianne Griffith attended the first-ever auction gala, they got hooked, enjoying the chance to feel part of a cohesive group with fellow members of their own industry while supporting a great cause, and went on to become very involved in the auction and the New Car Dealers Association. Ken was a member of the NCDA board for a number of years and served as President in 1992 and 1993, going on to win the Maclean’s Dealer of Excellence Award in 1994, while Dianne was an active member of the New Car Dealers Foundation / Special Olympics BC Auction Committee for a number of years.

Ken Griffith said it was thrilling to watch the relationship between the New Car Dealers and Special Olympics BC grow and see how dealers embraced Special Olympics around the province; he sees a good fit between the two. “It just grew and it was a win-win for everyone,” he said.

Dianne Griffith recalls the power of watching a Special Olympics track-and-field meet in Coquitlam where a teenage athlete hit the finish line and just kept running. “He was so excited that he could do it,” she said. “They’re just such genuine sportspeople, and they’re so thrilled at what they do.”

She also recalls Special Olympics athletes being thrilled to help out with the New Car Dealers’ initiatives, assisting with the live auction events and necessary background tasks like sending mail. “They really enjoyed helping us help them,” she said.

Deryl Griffith, currently the General Sales Manager of Signature Mazda, is following in his parents’ footsteps of generous support of the auction. Like his parents, he sees great value in the event and the cause, and feels the significance of being able to give opportunities. “Special Olympics gives opportunities for adults and kids to compete and make friends, friends for life – I’ve met a few athletes and it’s amazing the impact it has to their life,” he says.

Ken (right) and Deryl Griffith (left) with Akita Merumoto-San (centre), Vice President of Mazda World, presenting them with the award for #1 Retail Mazda Dealership in Western Canada in March 2014.