Throughout July, Chicagoland’s new-car dealers fired up their grills to host USO Barbecue for the Troops fundraisers which brought in more than $121,000 for the USO of Illinois and local troops. As a culmination to the month-long campaign, Chicago Automobile Trade Association (CATA) board of directors presented the check to the USO of Illinois during the USO’s Clark After Dark fundraiser last week.
The CATA formed a partnership with USO of Illinois three years ago to help raise awareness and funds for local troops. Since the beginning of the partnership, CATA dealers have raised more than $250,000 through the USO Barbecue for the Troops initiative where, on average, 70 dealers throughout Chicagoland communities host barbecue fundraisers on the same day in July. In its first year, CATA dealers generated $37,500 through the USO Barbecue for the Troops fundraising events. Last year, that number more than doubled to $90,000 raised. The goal was to beat $100,000 this year, and the dealers more than exceeded that by bringing in $121,000. In addition to the funds raised, dealers dedicated many hours and all of the essential resources needed to make each barbecue a special event for their communities.
“I feel very proud and honored to lead this association of dealers,” said Mike McGrath Jr., CATA chairman. “As a dealer myself, I have a huge sense of pride as I know firsthand the hard work that goes into coordinating these events. We had 70 dealers leading the charge and rallying their individual communities to raise funds and awareness for Illinois troops. It does not at all surprise me that CATA dealers far surpassed the fundraising goal from last year. What some might not recognize is that dealers are already deeply rooted within their communities and constantly strive to make a difference. The CATA’s partnership with the USO of Illinois is a natural fit and a cause that dealers can appreciate and, demonstrably, fully support.”
Last fall, the USO of Illinois awarded the CATA with the USO Salute to Leadership Award during its Star-Spangled Salute Gala in recognition of the association’s year-round commitment and support of local troops. As producer of the Chicago Auto Show, the CATA waives the show entrance fee for active-duty members of the military to show gratitude for their service.
“With this generous donation, the CATA has set the bar high yet again and the USO of Illinois is truly grateful,” said Alison Ruble, USO of Illinois president and CEO. “Thanks to the grassroots efforts of 70 Chicagoland dealers that participated this year, funds raised through the USO Barbecue for the Troops initiative will help the USO of Illinois continue to provide vital programs and services that deliver care and comfort to the more than 330,000 military and military families that we serve every year, and send a clear message that our Illinois communities appreciate their service to our nation.”
To help raise awareness of the dealership fundraisers, the CATA coordinated a social media contest using the hashtag #BBQ4Troops. The contest grand prize was the Ultimate Backyard BBQ, which included cooking demos and barbecue fare from Real Urban Barbecue’s head chef, a special visit from a Chicago Blackhawks ambassador and a grill from Big Green Egg Chicago. More than 100 people submitted entries and Kathy C. from Oswego, Ill., won with 67 percent of the votes. Next month, the CATA will thank her nephew, an active military member, by throwing him the Ultimate Backyard BBQ – the first time in a while he will be reunited with family and friends before being deployed next month.
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