"I was just doing what I thought was right, and here I am on the stage at Warner Bros. Studio, being featured on the Season 10 premiere of the Ellen show and I’m within arm's reach of all these celebrities that are here to help me?"
By Richard W. Henegar Jr.
This spring, I received an email from an old friend who asked if I knew anyone who could help a student fix his car. The email had several attachments: images that were disturbing to say the least, but most of all, made me angry. They were pictures of a young man’s car that had been severely vandalized. This was obviously a hate crime.
Also attached to the email was a letter from the young man to the university. In the letter he described the vandalism and asked for help. After the email had been forwarded throughout the Radford University faculty and staff in hopes to bring awareness to this situation and potentially help the young man, it landed in my inbox. I knew I had to help, so I invited Jordan to my shop.
I knew the least I would do is fix his car. Put it back to pre-vandalism condition, if not better. Being that I can never leave well enough alone and always have to go over the top, I decided that I wanted to do more than just fix his car. I wanted to overhaul this young man’s vehicle. I wanted to show him that we, Quality Auto Paint & Body Inc, as a small business will not put up with hate and discrimination and that this vehicle would not only be a billboard for our beliefs but a confidence and morale booster for someone who never should’ve been targeted in the first place.
Little did he know what I had up my sleeves ;) When he dropped off his car, I had a rental waiting for him. Two weeks of blood, sweat and sleepless nights later, with the local news present, we presented him with his overhauled car. He was speechless, in awe, hand over mouth. The only words out of his mouth were, “Oh my god, is this my car?” The initial reaction was great.
I was glad it was over, glad I could rest. Little did I know, this was just the beginning.
Overnight the local media coverage went viral. We immediately started to receive phone calls, letters, care packages, emails, web and Facebook hits! It was surreal. Then it started to sink in. My one act of kindness, just doing the right thing, had touched, affected and motivated so many people.
Then I received a call from the Ellen DeGeneres show. After a series of phone calls, they asked me to be on their Season 10 premiere show in Hollywood. Now I was speechless. I thought Hollywood was something I’d only ever see on TV, I never dreamed I’d get to go there in real life!? Within a week Jordan and I were on a plane to Hollywood.
We arrived in LAX and were greeted by a man in a tux holding a sign with our names on it. He then proceeded to take our bags and escort us to our personal LIMO?! We drove to the Hotel Roosevelt on Hollywood Blvd.
The next morning we were greeted by another man in a tux that would drive us in a limo to Warner Bros Studio. They set us up in a dressing room that you could’ve hung meat in! They drilled us with 20 questions preparing us for the cameras and potential questions that Ellen may ask us. I tried not to be nervous but this was CRAZY! I WAS IN A DRESSING ROOM ABOUT TO BE ON THE ELLEN SHOW! Ahhhhhhh!
I kept my composure and the time came. They staged us behind the scenes while they announced our presence and played an intro video. Then we were given the signal to go on stage. It was the moment of truth, time to put my game face on. I said to myself, “Ellen breathes the same air as we do and is no different than you and I, no need to be nervous.”
Well, that self-advice worked. I walked out on stage and hugged Ellen like she was an old friend. Jordan and I sat on the couch and I crossed my legs and threw my arm up on the back of the couch like I owned the place, doing my best to relax and have fun. As rehearsed, Ellen proceeded to ask us questions and just like clockwork, Jordan and I gave her the answers.
After a few Q&A’s she surprised us each with a check for $25,000. We both were speechless this time. Ellen wasn’t finished. She knew Quality’s cash flow was tight and that we were fighting to keep our heads above water so she then pulled another rabbit out of her hat and proceeded to drag me across stage.
She said, “Don’t move or do anything unless I tell you to.”
“OK?” I said.
The cameras started rolling again and she then jumped in front of a green screen and started to talk about my business on camera! Then actor Patrick Dempsey came out behind her promoting our business. Then 3 of the fab 5 Olympic gymnasts. Then PINK!
“What’s going on?!” I said to myself. “She’s making us a commercial! Ahhhh!”
Never in a million years could I have afforded to pay for a commercial with these celebrities in it and here I am getting it made for me for free. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined something like this would happen. I was just doing what I thought was right, and here I am on the stage at Warner Bros. Studio, being featured on the Season 10 premiere of the Ellen show and I’m within arms reach of all these celebrities that are here to help me?
Ellen looked to me and said, “Get ready for the phone calls.”
I replied, “Bring it on.”
That night Jordan and I went back to our hotels to kinda take it all in. We were tired so we went our separate ways to reflect. Wow, what an experience. The next morning we were greeted by the limo driver and chauffeured to LAX where we would catch the long flight home. Little did I know, but that plane ride would change the future.
Charitable Actions Revolution
During the flight home, we were given the option to choose from a selection of movies. I browsed through the titles and saw a movie that had a striking resemblance to the anti-bully symbol we had used for our shirts we made for the unveiling of Jordan’s car. It was the same symbol in fact from the movie, Bully. I figured, what better time to watch it than now?
The movie touched me, changed me, and motivated me. From that point on, I knew that I wanted to take this “15 minutes of fame” and do something positive with it. That plane ride was the birth of C.A.R., Charitable Actions Revolution.
One idea of overhauling a deserving person’s car soon became many, and C.A.R.’s one man army of one (me) quickly multiplied as friends, colleagues and even strangers approached me wanting to help. C.A.R. began to have weekly meetings to get organized and throw ideas out on the table.
The first few meetings would last for hours and were very exciting yet disorganized. As the weeks progressed, we started delegating tasks, responsibilities, establishing roles, representatives and even a board of directors. Fortunately, one of our board members is the VP of Warm Hands, Warm Heart out of Vermont, so we were able to umbrella under them until we’re able to get our feet off the ground.
Currently we’re working on our website, Facebook page and brainstorming on promotional items to sell. We’re also speaking to multiple schools about bullying and character building. We currently have about 5 ideas for bigger projects in the works, one of which could change the way every student looks at a school bus and could be a huge tool in eliminating bullying!
The rest is still unwritten.