December 1, 2014

SPARKS: Moments Of Creation Vol. 8

“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”
― Wilhelm Stekel

It's the Christmas Season. Time to feel warm and tingly right? But sometimes with the "to do" list stretching from your head to your knees it's hard to fit in warm and tingly. Well this is your lucky day. I'm bringing warm and tingly right to your inbox!

This month's SPARKS interview has been on my planner since August when I stumbled upon this heartwarming story completely by accident. Long story short, you probably all know a few gym rats and exercise geeks that live for their fitness routines right? Well, I'm not one of them. As a matter of fact I have to trick myself into exercising - when it happens, and it was in the midst of just such a scheme that I found this month's featured guest. I was tapping away on my computer trying to find something to keep me stationary on my stationary bike for at least 30 minutes when I came across a show on the BYU  TV channel called Turning Point. Turning Point showcases short feature stories about people who have been involved in a life changing experience. I scrolled through the episode titles and came across a segment called "The Car Santa". "Huh?" I thought. My curiosity got the best of me and I hit play.

Not only did my metabolism get a spike but I found my soul elevated as well. I was so touched by what I saw that I was determined to track down this man  and tell you his story. It didn't take long (thank you Google) before I'd found a contact number for this gentleman and was dialing the number to see if he'd be willing to do this interview. I figured I'd have to wrangle through a lot of people to find someone who would be willing to put me in touch with him, but to my utter astonishment, he answered the phone himself. (It was meant to be.)

He was so gracious and sweet, and as it goes with most real life heroes, absolutely humble and down to earth. So...without further delay, I'd LOVE to introduce you to

Car Santa

Terry Franz A.K.A The Car Santa is the founder and the soul of Cars 4 Christmas and Cars 4 Heroes. Each of these organizations is dedicated to helping people who are in desperate need of transportation but, for any number of reasons, are unable to afford reliable vehicles. Terry and his merry band of helpers take donated cars, fix them up and and then present them - free of charge, to people in need. From a woman who needed a way to get to dialysis 3 times a week to a woman who needed a handicapped fitted vehicle for her daughter born with Cerebral Palsy, Terry, along with his two assistants and a host of volunteers who fix up the cars, have been there since 1996 to provide hope and help. They give away 300 cars a year and have given away over 6000 vehicles.

Terry sees a vehicle just like any other tool. It's a means that when used correctly can bring about remarkable results. He's quick to point out that his organization is not called "Fixing Life's Problems" and makes sure that all the recipients understand that the keys he hands them are just the first step in making a better life for themselves.

Cars 4 Christmas and Cars 4 Heroes didn't start out to become what they are. As a matter of fact the whole thing started as a marketing strategy. I'll let Terry tell you more about that in his interview questions:

 What sparked the idea for Cars 4 Christmas? 

I owned a car lot and I had a thought about how to attract media and tell people about the lot. I thought I would give basic transportation to individuals and families that could not obtain a vehicle but still had a big need. I called a local radio station to help. We read the stories on why they needed a car and then called the people to tell they would receive one on Christmas. That first year we gave away 6 cars on Christmas Eve morning with a live remote from the radio station.  Every TV news station also showed up to cover the event. We got a lot of exposure but after seeing the looks on the recipients' faces we knew we were doing something more than a business promotion.

Were you apprehensive? 
I knew it would attract the media but not to the extent that it did. I gave 10 cars away the next year and the third year I sold the car lot. I would convince the dealerships that I went to work for to do the same thing. I changed dealerships year after year and continued on.

I decided to apply for 501 c 3 status so people could donate cars and receive a tax deduction. We still read the stories on the radio and when listeners hear them we get more cars donated. This grew year after year and still to this day all the TV stations come out to see us help the families and in Omaha, Wichita and KC.
The year of hurricane Katrina, I gave 50 cars away at Christmas and with all the TV stations going live all morning, I could only give about 25 cars away before the stations had to go off the air so I thought maybe I would give cars away all year. The radio stations would call me "The Car Santa" - and it stuck.
One July we were giving cars away and "Cars 4 Christmas" just didn't sound right. At the same time, I was getting a lot of requests for cars from returning veterans so I thought I would start a summer program called "Cars 4 Heroes." That was about 9 years ago.

We give about 300 cars away every year and are still growing. In 2015 we will head to Chicago with radio station 97.9 The Loop. We also have a car dealer in Indy that wants us to come there.

We plan on going national. Last we year gave cars away in Little Rock AR, Birmingham AL, Dallas, TX  and at the Daytona 500, Sen. Rick Santorum handed the keys to a veteran. In fact, he enjoyed it so much that 2 weeks later he donated his wife's car!

We have been featured on CBS Assignment America with Steve Hartman, NBC Making A Difference, and ESPN Sports giving away a car with Michael Waltrip to a vet at the track. 

Larry the Cable guy had a show on the History Channel called Only In America and we gave a veteran a van with a wheelchair lift. 
Mike Ballard and Jess James Dupree from the Full Throttle Saloon called me to help them get a motorcycle for a veteran who had lost his legs and one arm. (We got him a BMW that he could put a wheelchair on a trike.) We had equipped the hand control all on one bar so he could drive it.

 How does it feel to do something you're passionate about? 
You ask me how it makes me feel...I feel like Santa but more importantly how does it make them feel. Is what we are doing important? Ask this veteran from last Tuesday! (See the reaction for yourself here)

What advice do you have for someone who has a dream or idea simmering but hasn't taken action on it yet?

If you can help someone in need it is more rewarding than any amount of money you could ever acquire. 
You've given away SO many cars to so many people. Which story touched you the most.
There are thousands of stories that have all touched me.

And Terry - you've touched the hearts of so many already and you have no plans to stop. You've said "As long as I'm alive, people will get cars!" What a legacy of love and compassion you've created. 

Thank you Terry - not only for agreeing to share your story with us, but also for your selfless service to so many. You are the spirit of Christmas personified!
You can watch the entire Turning Point episode featuring Terry Franz The Car Santa HERE. It'll restore your belief in humanity and may just SPARK an idea for you as well! 

For more information about Cars 4 Christmas or Cars 4 Heroes you can visit Car Santa or Cars 4 Heroes on Facebook. 

You can also reach Terry to donate a car or submit your story of need at their websites at: 


  1. I love the quote you used to start this post. Have a wonderful December, dear! Thanks for sharing this wonderful story.

  2. Thanks Lux.

    I love that quote too. It seemed to fit better for Terry than anything else I could find. So glad you enjoyed the story. I was really touched when I came across it. Have a wonderful December yourself!