Some photos courtesy of Ryan Hayden (NAPA)
Mike and Stephanie Shaw of Spring Hill were the lucky recipients of a refurbished 2008 Toyota van thanks to the generosity of an American Idol runner-up and the combined efforts of several local businesses.
It all started when Mike Stevenson, owner and president Nature Coast Auto Parts (an affiliate of NAPA Auto Parts), decided to hold a contest to award a vehicle to a deserving family. As a Navy veteran of twenty-eight years, Mike had the concept of service instilled in him. He wanted his company to be part of the community and give back to a deserving person. As a matter of fact, he has four veterans working at his stores right now. The first step was to have someone donate the vehicle.
Mike contacted Bill Williamson, General Sales Manager of WXJB 99.9 FM and WWJB 103.9 The Boot located in downtown Brooksville. The two radio stations aired an appeal asking someone to donate a vehicle. They also announced a contest to pick a deserving recipient of the vehicle.
“We had thirty-six people respond with written statements as to why they should receive this vehicle and how it would change their lives if they were to win. All thirty-six had very good reasons as to why they should receive this vehicle, however we only had one to award,” stated Williamson.
Eight judges reviewed the written statements who, independently, gave each letter a score of 1 to 10 - 10 being the highest. The person with the highest score would receive the vehicle. Although all the letters had heart-wrenching stories and all the people who entered the contest deserved to win, the judges chose the Shaw family.
Bo Bice, a resident of Lecanto, was an avid listener of “The Boot” (WWJB 103.9) and heard the appeal. He called up the station and offered his Toyota Sienna van.
If his name sounds familiar, it’s because Bice was the runner-up against Carrie Underwood in the fourth season of American Idol. He has gone on to a successful career as a singer, musician and songwriter.
“I was a fan of the show [Randy Price’s morning show on WWJB] and God led my heart to help,” remarked Bice.
“It’s amazing how the community around here did so much for this family [the Shaws]. We all got blessed,” Bice added.
Mike and Stephanie Shaw are the parents of two sons, twenty-seven year-old Justin and nineteen year-old Zachary. Justin has cerebral palsy and has been a quadriplegic since birth. Zachary also has health issues but not as serious.
“He [Justin] is a miracle baby as docs told us he wouldn’t make it ten minutes... then he wouldn’t make it through the night, then he wouldn’t make it to his first birthday. Now 27 years later he has beaten all their projections,” Shaw states in his letter to WWJB.
The family persevered through all the medical challenges. Then in 2010, Mike injured his back. After several spinal surgeries he was able to walk, but the chronic pain made him unable to work.
The family made it through nine years on one income and all the expenses that go along with major illnesses. Then one day last year, their minivan died. They couldn’t afford to get it fixed, so for almost a year they had to rely on medical transport provided by their insurance.
In his letter, Shaw continued, “I am confident that this van would literally change his [Justin’s] life for the better. Winning this vehicle would mean that Justin would once again have the ability to participate in life instead of watching it go by from his bed or wheelchair.”
“Whether we are chosen as the winners or not, we’d like to thank you for holding this contest. It’s so cool that someone’s life will be made better and all from our little local radio station. Thanks for being an important part of our community,” Shaw concluded.
Once the van was at the NAPA store in Hudson, a number of people and businesses worked together to refurbish it. These included Mancini Automotive; Tony Vannata at Golden Oldies Auto Sales and Doug Lee with Lee and Sons Auto Repair in Hudson. Nature Coast Auto Parts supplied the parts necessary to do the work. In only 2-1/2 weeks, with body work, engine repairs and a new paint job, the 2008 van looked and ran like a brand new vehicle. The estimated value of the refurbished van is $5,000.
On Wednesday January 8, the people involved in this project met at the NAPA store in Hudson to turn over the keys to the van to the Shaws. Everyone was excited to be a part of this mission. Stevenson hopes to make the vehicle giveaway an annual tradition.
“We were shocked and surprised when we were told that we had won,” remarked Mrs. Shaw. “There are a lot of people out there that are just as deserving as us, if not more so. It was amazing how the community did come together. Just because you can, doesn’t mean that a lot of people do.”
For more information on this event and an audio clip go www.wwjb.com and click on the Home Page or go to the following link: http://www.wwjb.com/2020/01/10/napa-wxjb-the-boot-give-away-a-free-vehicle