DFW Airport — Caliber Collision surprised four U.S. veterans and their families with newly refurbished cars during the Salute to the Heroes Concert, part of American Airlines’ Sky Ball celebration, hosted in American Airlines Hanger #5 on Friday, Oct. 4.
Sky Ball is the premier fundraising event for one of the oldest military support organizations in the country, the Airpower Foundation. Sky Ball has allowed the Airpower Foundation to contribute to funding projects that directly support the members of all branches of our military, veterans and wounded, ill, and injured service members and their families.
Caliber Collison’s “Recycled Rides” program has been a part of Sky Ball for more than five years. Over time, the program joined forces with the National Auto Body Council and several insurance providers to obtain and refurbish each vehicle back to perfect working order. Since 2012, Caliber Collison has gifted nearly 300 vehicles to veterans, active duty service members and others in need of reliable transportation.
“We believe in supporting our military, both veterans as well as our current service members, first responders, and children in need,” Matt Hildreth, director of community relations and military affairs for Caliber Collision, said. “I personally believe that America has a short memory, and these wars are largely over, so raising money for the nonprofit military organizations is getting harder and harder.
“I think it is absolutely imperative that corporate America never forgets what our men and women have done. We have programs like this, so we don’t forget, and we support those that have gone and fought and have protected our country. Recycled Rides is just one of the many ways we can provide reliable transportation to veterans and service members in need.”
Traditionally, Skyball has awarded these recycled rides to three families. However, due to popular demand, this year they increased the number of recipients to four.
“There are so many veterans and current service members that are in need of reliable transportation,” Hildreth said. “Increasing by one isn’t a strain on our system, but I’ll tell you what, there’s a family here that is energized. They really feel excited about what they’ve seen and what they’ve witnessed and what they’ve got tonight.”
This year’s recipients were Petty Officer Brandon Pedersen, Petty Officer Kevin Reyes, Petty Officer Leon Hall and Airman Jesus Salcido. Each veteran received a newly-refurbished vehicle filled with gifts for their families.
Petty Officer Hall and his family received a refurbished 2016 Honda Civic. When Hall and his wife stepped in to care for a family member’s child, they were soon overwhelmed by court and legal fees, speech therapy and day care. The Hall family could not afford to replace the engine on their previous failing car and were without a vehicle until Recycled Rides stepped in.
Hall was shocked when he found out he would be receiving an automobile.
“I had no earthly clue [I was getting a car],” Hall said. “It was a total surprise. I didn’t know anything about it. We’re running back and forth all the time between speech therapy, school events, sports events, and all the stuff my son is in. It’ll be a great help in going back and forth to work and taking my son where he needs to go and where we need to go.”
Caliber Collision’s Matt Hildreth said programs like Recycled Rides are invaluable to helping U.S. veterans get back to living their normal lives and that more corporations like Caliber should be stepping up and helping veterans.
“The VA is way overloaded, and no president has ever had a plan for our returning men and women,” Hildreth said. “Roosevelt was probably the closest, but nobody since. It is imperative the private sector step up, honor these men and women, and look out for these men and women, and provide for these men and women.”
Written by Ariel Graham