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Detroit auto dealers raise millions to help kids at annual auto show Charity Preview


Editor Note: During the North American International Auto Show, Detroit Unspun/The HUB will bring you stories about what the auto industry is doing to help transform Detroit and its neighborhoods.

Nearly every day of the week a pair of mobile medical vans, affectionately called Hank and Clara, roll up to targeted schools and community centers to help treat Detroit’s low-income children for asthma and other ailments. A $28,000 grant from the Detroit Auto Dealers Fund helps subsidize 200 health care visits to the neighborhoods.

untitled“We bring health-care services to children who would struggle to get care otherwise because their parents may lack transportation, their doctors may be located on the other side of town, or they face other barriers,” says Elliott Attisha, D.O., a pediatrician who directs the program for Henry Ford Health System.

The 2015 grant from the DADA Fund, one of the nine charities supported by the posh Charity Preview on opening night of the North American International Auto Show, goes far to help underserved kids all year round. Since 1976 the auto dealers have raised more than $105.2 million for children and youth charities, more than half in the last 12 years.  More than $48 million of those funds were raised in the last 10 years.

Show-goers pay $400 apiece to attend the largest charity event in the country, spanning the full show floor of the auto show. Last year the black-tie gala raised $5.3 million for the nine Metro Detroit charities the fund sponsors. This year’s event on Friday night ,January 15, raised $5.2 million.

Since 1998, a portion of those dollars goes to the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan that administers direct grants and an endowment. More than $4 million has been funneled to 114 organizations and any community group can apply, generating a great interest among philanthropic groups. Grants are between $10,000 and $50,000.

“To our knowledge, this is the only auto association in the country that has created such a permanent legacy,” says Karen Chassin Goldbaum, the spokesperson for the Community Foundation.

Who gets help from the DADA Fund?

A recent chart of activities found $30,860 went to youth volunteerism, $339,491 to arts, cultures and humanities and $299,000 to public safety and other concerns. Grants go to organizations for physical fitness, math education, entrepreneurship and mental health counseling.

Here are some of the innovative programs helped by the fund.

Dr. Attisha and his mobile medical mission address numerous concerns, especially asthma, which is higher in Detroit than any sector of the country. He estimates 25 to 30 percent of city students are dealing with uncontrolled breathing issues, which could lead to missed school days, emergency room visits and exacerbated conditions.

Hank exterior

Help for the medically underserved comes by way of two mobile vans, each equipped with a driver, nurse practitioner and medical assistant. Each of the three target schools have a full-time nurse who can set up appointments for the mobile unit, send requests for pharmaceuticals, identify key cases for the doctor and give breathing treatments to students.

The problem is far from solved.

Dr. Attisha says the city needs to place a nurse in each school with the myriad of illnesses students have, especially in underserved areas. He hopes his grant with the DADA Fund can be renewed because the work goes on.

Other charities supported by the DADA general fund include the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan, The Children’s Center, The Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation, Detroit Institute for Children, Judson Center, March of Dimes Metro Detroit and Detroit Police Athletic League.

With such great need in the community and the DADA’s proven skills in fundraising, the new public relations director of the organization, Max Muncey, launched a web-based fundraising platform.

“We view this as another way we can make our charitable efforts bigger and better,” says Muncey. Donors click on the site through its portal, making contributions up to and including Jan. 15, the day of the charity preview.

For those who can’t afford a $400 ticket price but feel passionate about helping children, a new way of investing $20 or $40 to make Detroit a better place.

“Every penny that goes into this platform helps, whether it’s $5 or $5,000,” Muncey says. “At the end of the day, if a $1 is raised, it’s one more $1 that we had before.”


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