As one small way to recognize the dedication and commitment put forth by AAA roadside assistance providers, AAA Network of Savings, in partnership with AAA preferred supplier, Ford, hosts the annual Real Heroes of the Road Ford Giveaway. Since 2017, AAA Emergency Roadside Service (ERS) providers have been invited to submit their most rewarding AAA member road service experience for a chance to win $30,000 towards a new Ford truck and other valuable prizes from Network of Savings preferred suppliers. Stories are reviewed and and winners are selected by a panel of judges, comprised of AAA National and Club executives. Meet the 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017 winners and read their stories here:
|1st||Santiam Towing & Recovery||Lyons, Oregon||AAA Oregon Idaho||$30,000 Ford|
|2nd||Cars Towing||CLOQUET, MN||AAA Auto Club Group||$3,000|
|3rd||Dragon Tows LLC||Hutchinson, Kansas||AAA Club Alliance Inc.||$2,000|
|1st||Lee Richards||Riverside Auto & Towing LLC||Long Bottom, OH||AAA East Central (Auto Club Enterprises)||$30,000 Ford|
|2nd||Chuck Berry||Expedited Towing LLC||Manchester, MD||AAA Club Alliance Inc.||$1,500|
|3rd||Zack Corey||Corey's Big Dog Towing||Beulah, MI||AAA Michigan (Auto Club Group)||$1,000|
|Place||Service Provider||City, ST||AAA Club||Prize|
|1st||Powder Mill Towing||Parsippany, NJ||Northeast||$30K Ford $300; LSI Graphics|
|2nd||RJT Motorist Services Inc||White Plains, NY||Northeast||$1,500 toward Network of Savings Programs*|
|3rd||Alamo Auto Service||Hammond, IN||ACG||$500 towards Unifirst Direct Sale and $500 towards Network of Savings Programs*|
|All winners receive a trophy sponsored by GCC. *Donated by Santander Bank.|
1st Place (2019) Michael Benson, Powder Mill Towing
AAA Northeast (240) Parsippany, NJ
On May 17, 2018, Mike was in his tow truck on I-80 W in Mount Olive, NJ, towing a truck to PA. Just ahead, a bus carrying a group of fifth graders, teachers and chaperones was on a field trip from East Brook Middle School in Paramus, NJ. Mike saw the school bus come off the ramp and attempted to make a left turn, across the three-lane highway, to a turnaround in the median, marked official-use-only. A dump truck, traveling on I-80, broadsided the bus about a quarter mile in front of Mike in his tow truck. Mike quickly pulled over and blocked traffic on the highway to prevent further injuries. The body of the bus was ripped from the chassis and laid on its side, propped off the ground by the guardrail. Mike didn't think twice, he jumped out of his truck and began to survey the scene. He looked under the bus and saw three children who were ejected from the windows and trapped between the bus and guardrail. He pulled the children out from the wreck and resuscitated one of the children who passed out during the crash. In the meantime, other motorists stopped to offer help. Mike was able to get the three children free and handed them to the good Samaritans who stopped to help. He then went under the bus, crawled through a broken window, and found approximately 30 passengers trapped inside the bus. Mike could only describe the scene as a "war zone" He realized many of the children were stuck in their seats as the force of impact from dump truck locked the seatbelts, making them too tight to unbuckle. He used a pocket knife to cut the seatbelts and freed the children one by one, and safely pass them through the broken window to the others helping outside the bus. The emergency responders were still not on scene when a woman called out to help a little girl who stopped breathing. Mike stepped in to perform CPR until an EMT arrived. The EMT informed Mike, if it wasn't for his quick thinking to perform CPR, the girl probably would not have survived. Once the EMS and police were on scene, Mike returned to work. He said, "I did my due diligence and left"
Mike was exactly where he was needed that day and he embodied the true meaning of a hero, as he stepped in, as first responder, to save dozens of lives that day. Many of the passengers suffered from broken bones and severed fingers but luckily, their injuries were not life threatening. Tragically, one student and one teacher did not survive the accident. For his actions, Mike was nominated by the NJ Department of Health's Office of Emergency Medical Services (OEMS) and the NJ Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Council for Outstanding EMS Action by a Citizen. He received the award this past October and has it displayed in his office. Mike told me, "receiving the award was a fulfilling experience". One year later, East Brook Middle School hosted a day of service to mark the anniversary of the tragic accident and invited the emergency responders to attend, including Mike Benson. Mike met the children he saved the prior year, including the girl he performed CPR on. He was overwhelmed with all the hugs of appreciation he received from the students and their families. May 17, 2018 will be a day Mike Benson will never forget.
Event news coverage: http://newjersey.news12.com/ www.northjersey.com/story/news NJ-Star magazine.northeast.aaa.com/magazine
2nd (2019) RJT Motorist Services Inc
Northeast (240) WHITE PLAINS, NY
"A Mother's Day gift for a Mother I never met"
On my way to celebrate Mother's Day after servicing my last AAA call, a Jeep, a few cars in front of me on interstate 287 starts to veer from side to side and at the same time starts to speed up and slow up continuously. I pass the driver in the right side in the emergency lane as he is in the driving lane and realize the kid is having some sort of seizure. I position my vehicle in front of his and bring his car to a full stop with my car. Unfortunately we were just around the bend in the blind spot were the cops wait during radar traps to surprise speeding drivers. We are now in the right lane of traffic on 287 with horns blowing and cars swerving, as they are surprised that two vehicles are dead stopped on 287 at high noon. As I get out of my AAA service vehicle to jump into his car to put the car in park his seizure starts to increase and now he is stepping on the gas pedal and pushing my car into the next lane of traffic with his bumper. Not that I care about the car but at that split second I realize that Bugsy (my dog) is in my back seat and I forgot all about him in my efforts to help this guy. I am now running around this kids car trying to find an open door to no avail. I try to get into my trunk to get a tire iron to break his window but his bumper is pushing my car into the middle lane so I relise, that is a lose the hand decision. After fifty cars witnessed this no one stopped except a car full of young girls who I instructed to call the police and have them also dispatch an ambulance to our location. As they were doing that I instructed them to open their trunk so I can get their tire iron out to break the window. Another bad idea as their trunk was filled with luggage. It was crazy and no one else was stopping so I practically jump in front of a passing van and tell the driver to give me his tire iron, he asks why and I tell him I need to break this guy's window. He drives away thinking this is a road rage incident. (I have been in these positions before when things get worst by the second, so I know at some point it got to get better and I was hoping this guy's luck was going to change soon.)
It did, his seizures seem to subside and he starts to come around. I begin banging on his window shouting orders to him to put the car in park, put the emergency brake on, open the door, give me the key! He was still dazed but after a minute or so he followed instructions. The police and ambulance arrived, transported him to Greenwich Hospital and after the police report, Bugsie and I were on our way.
As I was driving away, I remembered he had an overnight bag in the front seat and flowers in the rear seat on the floor. I thought to myself, he must have been on his way to visit Mom for Mother's Day and his Mom will never know that he almost didn't make it home.
3rd (2019) Alamo Auto Service
ACG 020 (AAA Chicago Motor Club) Hammond IN
On a hot July day, just as the afternoon rush hour was beginning, Alamo Auto was dispatched a AAA call for a young man named Evan Boyd and his best friend, Ryan, located on I-94 and Cline Ave in Hammond, Indiana. They were driving a 1992 Ford E-150 Econoline van which was handed down to Evan by his grandfather and had broken down on the busy expressway. Being that the two were from out of town, they did not know a trusted place to take the van. The call center set up the call to go to the nearest AAA Approved Auto Repair Facility which, thankfully, was Alamo Auto. The tow truck reached the young men in about 40 minutes and towed them to safety. Little did they know that this was only the beginning of a story they will continue to remember for years to come.
The owner of Alamo Auto, Alan, was quickly able to inspect the vehicle and noticed that transmission fluid was leaking out of the rear tail shaft housing. After speaking to the young men while at the shop, they found out that Evan and Ryan had just graduated high school and were taking a cross country road trip using their graduation money. They were on their way back home when the van broke down. They were shocked to hear that their home was in Francistown, New Hampshire, which is about 1,000 miles away! The two had been staying in the van as they drove from state to state and only had enough money to pay for fuel to get back home and not much else.
After hearing their story, Alan told them he would try and repair the vehicle at a minimal cost. Being parents themselves, Alan and his wife, Tracie, offered to take Evan and Ryan to a hotel for the night and pay for it themselves. Evan and Ryan refused and said that they would stay in the van. Alan and Tracie reluctantly agreed and set them up with some power and a fan to help keep them cool.
The next day, Alan replaced the tail shaft housing and replaced the transmission fluid lost in hopes of getting them back on the road to finish their road trip. While taking the van for a test ride, Alan noticed that the transmission was not shifting correctly and diagnosed that it needed to be rebuilt. The luck of these young men had just gone from bad to worse.
Alan and Tracie called Evan's parents and let them know what was going on with the van. While on the phone with them, Tracie decided to offer to let the boys stay at their own house while the transmission was being rebuilt, which would take a few days. Tracie let Evan's parents know that she understood how they must be feeling being that their son and his friend were so far from home and there was so little that they could do to help.
To ease their concerns, she offered to send them a picture of their driver's licenses with their address so they could see where the boys would be staying. It was really important for Alan and Tracie to make sure that the parents of Evan and Ryan did not need to worry more than they already were. They hoped that, if one of their own children were stranded 1,000 miles from home, someone would treat them the same way. With little other options, their parents agreed that this would be the best and safest decision.
During the 6 days it took them to get back on the road, Alan and Tracie treated the boys like family. They fed them, let them stay in the house alone, and took them places around town. They were even able to get them VIP passes to the local Festival of the Lakes in Hammond.
When the van was finally fixed and Evan and Ryan were ready to leave, it was a bittersweet moment for Alan and Tracie. These young men had been part of their family for almost a week and the two of them were emotional to see them leave.
About a month after the service call that brought these people together, Alan and Tracie received a huge gift basket from the kids' families. Inside it were some handmade crafts, pictures of beautiful local scenery, and a New Hampshire license plate to remember them by. The most important item was a heartfelt handwritten letter from the families of the kids which said that they were so grateful that two strangers took their kids into their house and treated them like family. Not only were they thankful for that, but they were also thankful that Alan only charged them for parts for the repair and no labor. The boys' parents said that, if they were ever in New Hampshire, they would have a place to stay! To this day, every so often, they still keep in touch with the families and hope they always will.
Alan is a second generation tow provider with Alamo Auto, which was started by his late father. Alamo Auto has faithfully serviced AAA members for 57 years! It is a Preferred Service Provider and multiple time Service Provider of Excellence Award winner with The Auto Club Group. Alamo Auto consistently scores above 90% in member satisfaction scores. They have also been a AAA Approved Auto Repair (AAR) Facility for about 10 years and won a 2018 Top Shop Award showing that they are amongst the best of the AAR Facilities. With caring owners that worry more about the people they serve than the dollars and cents, Alamo Auto is a Real Hero of the Road!
2018 1st Place winners, Priest Brothers Wrecker Service, Lawton, OK - AAA Oklahoma - Auto Club Partners
MOST MEMORABLE WRECKER CALL
On December 26, 2016 about 3:25 p.m., Priest Brothers received a call from AAA. Call # 5592 was for Paul Matthaus located at a gas station in Elgin, Oklahoma. We dispatched our wrecker driver to the call. Upon arrival and speaking with Mr. Matthaus, he realized something wasn’t quite right. Our driver called and explained to us the customer was very confused and couldn’t tell him how he got there, where he was from, or where he was going. We discussed that the man seemed to be showing some signs of Dementia or Alzheimer’s.
The only number we had was to the store where he was located. We called AAA but were unable to obtain more information, so we called the Elgin police for some help. They said all that could be done was to put him in a cell until they could find out where he belonged. We just did not feel good about him staying in a cell. We decided at that moment to load him, his truck and bring both back to our shop in Lawton, Oklahoma.
Meanwhile, Kenneth got on Google and searched the name in Krum Texas. He was able to locate a name and Paul Priest contacted his wife, Becky. She was dreading the news of the phone call, but when she learned he had been found safe, she was thrilled. There was a silver alert out for him as he had left his home Christmas day and had not been seen since.
Paul talked with Becky the decision was made to meet about half way at a restaurant south of Wichita Falls, Texas to return him to her care. She could not believe that we would go to all that trouble to safely deliver him to her. So about 5:30 p.m. Paul left to take him back. It was an eventful trip with Mr. Matthaus to say the least. During the trip, some agitation came about, but mostly conversation. He was very confused about present time happenings but talked and recalled a lot about childhood and early events.
We arrived at the restaurant before his wife, so I ordered him something to eat while we waited. He couldn’t remember if he was married or not, but when I asked him who “Becky” was his eyes lit up and he said with great expression “Becky!!” As soon as Becky arrived, he recognized her and we put him into her van. He laid down in the back seat and went right to sleep.
Becky and I visited while he slept and gave me some insight into this man. Becky stated he was a remarkable and talented man. He was a German man who climbed the Berlin wall to escape. He came to the United States at the age of 31 and was a custom welder for Boeing. He was also a metals designer. She said he was 76 years old and had a heart condition. Becky also agreed with me that he looked totally exhausted and probably hadn’t eaten anything since leaving the house Christmas morning.
We have kept in touch with Mrs. Becky Matthaus through cards from time to time. I spoke with Becky and she let us know that Mr. Matthaus is still with us, although he is now receiving Hospice care. He is able to walk and talk and she continues to send Thanks and Blessings for our unbelievable service. She said it is beyond her thinking that someone would go to those lengths to do what we did and not charge anything.
All we can say is IT WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO! Our Dad, Howard E. Priest, started towing for AAA around 1972 and in 1985 was given the “HOWARD PRIEST “award for his service. My brother Kenneth and I have big shoes to fill and we strive every day to do just that. This was a team effort and I am very proud of everyone that was involved.
Congratulations to all 2018 winners!
|Place||Business Name||City, State||Club||Prize|
|1)||Priest Brothers Wrecker Service||Lawton, OK||176 - AAA Oklahoma - AAA Club Partners||$30,000 towards a new Ford|
|2nd)||Affordable Locksmith||Franklin, TN||014 - AAA Auto Club South||$1,500 Goodyear eGift Certificate|
|3rd)||GP's Prendergast Towing||Florence, AZ||002 - AAA Arizona - AAA Club Partners||$250 eGift Certificate from Zip's AW Direct|
|3rd)||Zuroff Repair Inc||Hebron, ND||113 - AAA North Dakota - Auto Club Group||$250 eGift Certificate from Zip's AW Direct|
|All winners received a trophy sponsored by GCC, and Google Home Speaker from Santander Bank.|
2017 1st Place Winners, Fox City's Towing, Greenville, WI AAA Auto Club Group
As many know this business is a physical and emotional roller coaster business. One thing that every man or woman has in the business is stories, lots and lots of unique stories. Anytime that you meet a fellow colleague you can spend hours discussing these stories. The craziest part is that everyone knows that no situation is the same and no story ends the same in the towing business.
One story that has always stuck out in my mind is one that seems so small but made a major impact in my views and how I train all of my guys today.
When I was working as a Battery Service technician it was the middle of a normal slam packed AAA day in Wisconsin. I got called out for a simple jumpstart behind one of the local Kwik Trip gas stations. The customer did not have a phone number which is constant plague in the business, but I was close by so I went. Upon arriving on scene I noticed this old van parked in the back of the gas station behind the car wash. I hopped out of the van with my jump pack and tester with a smile on my face and immediately noticed that the woman had been crying. As a man it is sometimes awkward to ask what's wrong, so I tried to focus on other things and help her out with her car problem. Once the hood was opened I saw that the terminal on her battery was in rough shape and the battery was very old. I performed the battery test and my suspicions were confirmed that her battery was bad. At this point I told her about how the battery service works and advised her that we could replace the battery right now. At this point she started crying hysterically and I asked what was wrong. In short, she described how she was in an abusive relationship and with the help of a friend she left in the middle of the night with a little bit of cash and as many belongings as she could fit in her van. She was headed to a relative and stopped for the night to sleep. But at this point she was low on cash and had a mechanical problem. There really was no solution that I could offer her with her financial situation.
As a technician I really could not do anything for her except jump her car and head to my next service call, but for some reason I was really having a hard time not helping her more. On my own dime I decided to replace the terminal and battery in her vehicle. I advised her that AAA would cover the cost of the battery, even though they would not and I decided to do it for her. Once completed I told her that I needed to run to the gas station quick to wash my hands. I grabbed her a gas card so that she had enough fuel to make the remainder of her trip. I gave that to her and told her that was from me and she refused at first but I told her that it was important to me to help her out. She thanked me and I left. So I went on with my day and stopped at the bank and got the cash out for the battery and never mentioned that I covered the cost of the battery.
It was about two months later that we received a letter in the mail from her with a check for the amount of the battery and the gift card. I still to this day am not really sure how she figured all that out, but she did. It was a short note. I wish I still had that letter but I can tell you one thing that I will never ever forget it. It made me feel like I actually made a difference. She described how she got a job and is back on her feet and she is happier now than she has been for a very long time. She claimed that I made a difference.
Fast forward to today, I now own the company and have an awesome team behind me. I always tell my guys that if you feel like helping someone out because you feel like they actually need it, do it and I will reimburse you, no questions asked. The reason I feel that this is important is because philanthropy is something that is lost in today's greed. You only get out of this world what you put into it. At the end of the day it was no big deal, but I was a 21 year old that was short on money, it seemed like a lot to me but it has paid me back exponentially with how I run my business and view people to this day. It is crazy how something that I kept to myself for so long, turned out to be so deep and good for me and my future. When I get lost in the moment and forget the importance of real life, I try to remember the feeling I had that day.
Congratulations to all 2017 winners!
|Place||Business Name||City, State||Club||Prize|
|1st Place||Fox City's Towing||Greenville, WI||Auto Club Group||A 2017 Ford F150 truck (valued at up to $30,000)|
|2nd Place||Carlton Automotive||Oostburg, WI||Auto Club Group||Four Goodyear tires ($1,500 value)|
|Tie for 3rd Place||Morton's Towing||Derwood, MD||AAA Club Alliance Inc||$250 AW Direct e-Gift Certificate|
|Tie for 3rd Place||J & F Auto Repair and Towing||Indianapolis, IN||AAA Hoosier Motor Club||$250 AW Direct e-Gift Certificate|
The Ford Real Heroes of the Road Giveaway celebrates the heroic tasks performed daily by AAA's roadside assistance network. It is also designed to help increase awareness and engagement of the savings and benefits available from supplier programs through the AAA Network of Savings. Through a combination of discounts, AAA service providers can save up to $7,800 off dealer invoice pricing and cash-back rebates on a new Ford vehicle.