Several Southern Nevadans joined forces recently to create a dream come true for Whitney Elementary School Principal Sherrie Gahn in her quest to help needy students at the school situated near Boulder Highway and Tropicana Avenue.
"This is awesome," said Gahn after being presented with a 2005 Dodge Caravan that seats seven. "It's absolutely amazing and it was so humbling to see the van pull into the driveway."
Gahn, who has been principal at Whitney for seven years, said the van will be used to transport students to get vision and medical care throughout the school year. As much as 80 percent of students live in poverty, and the school's staff makes certain that the students receive transportation for the badly needed trips.
In the past, the school transported children to medical appointments by school bus, however, the money needed to pay for the bus came from funds used to purchase food.
"That's huge," Gahn said. "The money we are saving can now be used for food to feed our students. In addition, since we now have our own van, we can set our own schedules and more kids will also receive medical attention."
The group of donors was orchestrated by and included Henderson businessman Bobby Ellis of Snap Towing. Ellis collected $6,100 from various other donors including Congresswoman Shelley Berkley, Selma Bartlett, Don and Kim Ellis, Classic and Collectible Cars, Pete Kypreos, Charlotte Robinson, Lenard Helmbolt, Eric Paton, Steve Sendlein, Clark Whitney, Roger Erickson, Patrick Donoho, John Marchiano and Christy Dello and Edward Smith.
The van was delivered to the school on a rainy day, but there were happy faces considering the school's latest addition of wheels.
Findlay Acura purchased the van at a local auction and supplied the difference in the cost of the purchase. In addition, the dealership, led by General Manager James Cobbs, worked with DC Window tint to provide window tint, a safety check and logos that included the school's mascot, the Whitney Wizard.
Among those who will likely be transporting students in the new van for Whitney will be Gahn; Shirley Peterson, office manager; Vicki Bustos, counselor; Shannon Williamson, assistant principal; Kim Butterfield, second language instructor; and Andrew Kaminski, the school's custodian.
"We're so happy to be a part of this," said Jim Donahue, Internet director and head of marketing for Findlay Acura.
Findlay Acura also provided 100 turkeys for the school's needy families on Thanksgiving and Christmas. In addition, Collision Authority jumped on board to help.
"This is wonderful," said Mark Manendo, a Nevada assemblyman who is employed by Collision Authority, which also provided funds for the project. "In addition, this serves as a perfect example of people working together to help others."
Findlay Acura is part of Findlay Automotive Group which was formed in 1961 by the late Pete Findlay whose son, Cliff, now spearheads dealerships in Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Idaho.