Words: Cassandra Stern
Photos: SPEC MIX
Editor’s Note: Masonry is a trade that not only creates impressive and everlasting structures, but those in the industry tend to display an overall concern and desire to help those around them. In our series, Masonry Gives Back. We highlight some of the good work those in our industry provide to their respective communities. If you know anyone who is doing good work through masonry, please email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com We’d love to feature as much of the charitable work going on as possible.
It all started with a conversation, as many good ideas do. Mike Blackburn, a well-respected figure in the masonry community, was meeting with his good friend Trey Harris of SPEC MIX while battling illness in the hospital. Harris was the bearer of good news— the live auction recently conducted in his honor managed to get donations from about 20 different industry-related companies and successfully raised over $38,000.
The proceeds were donated to Cal Farley’s Boy Ranch, a non-profit organization that works to aid underprivileged children in disadvantaged situations. Year after year, it was incredibly important for Blackburn to continue to support what he felt was a worthwhile cause with a sizeable donation. As Harris learned about the organization, he felt a calling to follow in Blackburn’s footsteps and give back to the community.
$38,000 later, accompanied by fellow masonry industry member Johnny Pool, Harris was able to travel to Cal Farley’s Boy Ranch in Armarillo, Texas, to see how the fruits of his labor and efforts being put to use. In addition to getting to meet the children at the ranch, “we were able to see firsthand where our money was going, and it felt good to do that for the underprivileged kids,” he says.
The good feelings of accomplishment and having given back to the community didn’t fade quickly, either. “It gave me a great sense of pride doing that, so this year I wanted to continue this,” Harris said. A new idea had been born, and Harris felt a calling to put it into action. The live auction had been a serious success and had garnered an overwhelming response from the community, which got him thinking. He wanted to do another live auction, but this time, “I wanted to do it a little differently and give back in our hometown. I wanted to do something that would benefit our community in the DFW Metroplex.”
After speaking with his wife, Brian Carney of SPEC MIX, Greg Hutchinson of Quikrete, and even some of the salesmen from the various companies, the concept for Bricks, Blocks, and Bags for Bikes was born. Harris goes on to explain, “Predominantly SPEC MIX sells, distributes and promotes the masonry industry. So the bricks and blocks come from that since it is industry-driven. The bags, that’s for us, because all of our stuff comes from bags. So the block, brick, and bag industry for bicycles!” This time the proceeds would go to WFAA’s Santa’s Helpers toy drive in Dallas, TX.
However, a task like this does not come together overnight— nor come to fruition with the efforts of one individual or one company. To start the process, Harris reached out to the approximately 20 vendors that had supported his previous fundraising efforts and was delighted to find that every single one was interested in donating to and supporting the cause. Having secured the donations needed to make the venture successful, SPEC MIX stepped in to assist Harris in assembling literature, flyers, letterhead, and even business cards to help spread the word about the upcoming fundraiser.
News spread quickly bolstered from additional networking efforts by other individuals and companies who were eager to help and anxious to see the event become a success. Eventually, the total retail value of the donations exceed $40,000, and Harris was thrilled. Obtaining cash donations is not easy, and was one of the driving factors behind the decision to do a live auction in the first place. Says Harris, “one of the reasons I wanted to do an auction is because it’s easier to call someone and ask for a $500 gift certificate— you can then turn it around and get $600 bid, which is more money for your cause.”
The day of the live auction went off without a hitch. Every vendor that provided a donation was able to present their item on stage with the help of announcer Tom Clark— who you may recognize as the host of the beloved Bricklayer 500 event. His efforts did not go unrewarded, and as the auction closed and the day’s returns were tallied, the total reached a whopping $48,250.
While this fell slightly short of the $50,000 goal, Harris was far from disappointed, but he would soon be surprised and overwhelmed with even more profound gratitude when he was approached by one of his mason contractors, who inquired about the day’s goal. After explaining the situation, the contractor immediately cut a check for the difference, and the $50,000 goal was achieved.
Money in hand, Harris was now able to take the funds to event partner Larry Soles and Friends, who would use their connection with Academy Sports to purchase the bikes at a discount, allowing for even more bikes to reach the children who need them most. However, this still would require more effort on Harris’s part, as the fundraiser was only the first part of the fundraising effort. Logistics now came into play, as delivering 1,000 bikes to needy children is no small feat.
In order to deliver the gifts, Harris has been working with his dispatcher and plant manager in Alvarado, Texas, to coordinate having “ four 18-wheelers to load up and transport these bikes to a toy drives, which will be broadcast live and on the news. We’ll be driving through downtown Dallas, TX, right through the toy drives in December.” Again, this is a huge undertaking and requires a lot of unpaid work on the parts of all participants, but Harris and all parties involved wholeheartedly believe it is well worth the effort, even during the busy holiday season.
With the help of Academy Sports, Bricks, Blocks, and Bags for Bikes will be able to provide a wide range of bicycles to fit the needs of a variety of underprivileged children. The $50,000 raised will secure everything from tricycles for young children to bicycles with training wheels intended for kids age 7-12, and even full-size BMX or dirt bikes for older teens. To ensure every one of the 1,000 recipients receives the bike of their dreams this holiday season, they will even have an equal amount of boy and girl bikes in each size available for this giving effort.
After hours of making phone calls, completing paperwork, creating the infrastructure, and doing publicity, the work is far from done, but the rewards far outweigh the stress and additional effort on the part of all who participated. Indeed, it is “just a great feeling to be able to give back to the community and give back to underprivileged children,” Harris contends.
Like many people, Harris can’t help but think about the kids that get up on Christmas morning and have nothing that they want. It may be difficult for some to imagine being a child and heading downstairs to unwrap holiday gifts, then realizing that you didn’t get the toy you’d been hoping for all year long.
However, making a difference means the world to those like Harris, who is inspired by the spirit of giving, not just during the holiday season, but all year round. Though it may not be much, concludes Harris, “if these bicycles are just a drop in the bucket of what we do, then at least I got a little bit of water in that bucket to help out.”
Additional Note: Since the drafting of this article, Trey Harris was approached by mason contractor Larry Saul regarding an additional contribution. With his help, Bricks, Blocks, and Bags for Bikes will be delivering not 1,000 but 2,000 bikes to the WFAA’s Santa’s Helps DFW toy drive next Tuesday, December 17, 2019. We could not be more proud of the charitable and giving spirit of all involved with this effort, and are happy to be able to shed some light on their selfless work!