Words: Vanessa Salvia
Photos: SPEC MIX
There’s no doubt that 2020 was hard on all of us — never leaving the house, not even for grocery shopping, working from home, managing everyone’s school and work schedules. But as hard as it has so far been for adults, kids probably have it worse. Not only are schools closed, but visits with their friends are off-limits, birthday parties canceled, visits with grandparents curtailed. The list of sacrifices goes on and on. Quikrete and Spec Mix decided to do something about it.
A Bit of Background
For the past two years, Trey Harris, Southwest Regional Bulk Sales Manager of Quikrete, and Brian Carney, Vice President of Spec Mix, and others in the industry, collaborated to raise funds for underprivileged kids. In 2018, the effort came about through a conversation with Harris’s friend Mike Blackburn, now deceased, who inspired them to create the event that raised $35,800 through a live auction for the Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch in Amarillo, Texas.
Accompanied by fellow masonry industry member Johnny Pool, Harris traveled to Cal Farley’s Boy Ranch, an organization for which Blackburn had a particular affinity. There, he was able to see how the Ranch used the money and donations to benefit the at-risk boys. Harris felt good about the work and felt a calling to continue it.
In 2019, they did the same thing again in Blackburn’s memory and formed the official group, Bricks, Blocks, and Bags for Bikes (BBB for Bikes), to raise funds to buy bicycles. The name is a unique play on the industry and the trades that contribute and support the communities they work in — bricks and blocks represent the masonry industry, while bags represent the mix that Spec Mix and Quikrete sell in bags.
“In 2019, at the North Texas Spec Mix Bricklayer 500, we held a live masonry auction,” recalls Harris. “Suppliers and manufacturers from all over the Dallas-Fort Worth area donated materials to be auctioned off.”
They received $48,250, which was just shy of their goal of $50,000. After the auction was over, one of the mason contractors approached Harris, and when they realized they just fell short, Ranch Masonry of Houston, Texas, wrote a check for $1,750 to put the group over the top. To make the most of the funds, the BBB for Bikes program partnered up with Academy Sports to purchase the bikes at a reasonable price. Larry Sauls & Friends, a nonprofit working to provide for needy citizens in North Texas and throughout the U.S., helped with the logistics.
“The BBB for Bikes program was able to purchase 1,000 bikes that year, and Larry Sauls & Friends matched our donation for a total of 2,000 bikes,” says Harris.
Carrying It Forward in 2020
In August 2020, the Santa’s Helpers program inquired about making another bike donation. The group was worried that with how hard COVID-19 had hit families, they would fall far short in donations while, at the same time, the demand for assistance would be greater than usual.
The chief meteorologist for WFAA, a Dallas-area news station, is Pete Delkus, who also helps run the Santa’s Helpers program in Dallas. Delkus told Harris that they would typically have 300 to 400 people show up at donation centers. In 2020, though, that number fell to under 50.
“Their in-person donations were tremendously down, but people still wanted to help out, so their online donations went way up,” says Harris. He says bikes are the number 1 item that is requested each year but is the least donated. So BBB for Bikes decided that their focused efforts would go toward buying bikes for the Dallas-area Santa’s Helpers.
“I started reaching out to the suppliers who had donated in years past, and they were more than gracious to do it again,” explains Harris. “Several new suppliers contacted us as well to help out the kids.”
But there were unforeseen problems. With COVID-19 restrictions in place, a live auction was out of the question. The first attempt at an online auction generated so much traffic it caused the website to crash. Their second attempt worked, and by the time the auction went live, November 12, they had 24 items up for grabs with a retail value of over $40,000, intending to raise at least $60,000. Spec Mix’s communication director, Greg Hutchinson, helped get the word out. It worked!
“When it went live on November 12, which was the same day that we held the Spec Mix Junior Bricklayer 500 in Dallas, my phone was blowing up with all the phone calls and text messages,” says Harris. After all, the BBB for Bikes program was said and done, raised $60,337.50, and turned that into 1,206 bikes. Larry Sauls & Friends and Academy Sports donated an additional 750 bikes for a total of 1,956 bikes.
It took two 18-wheelers to ship the bikes to a warehouse in North Dallas and a crew of six men to assemble them, a feat which took five days. Only two days after that, every bike had been picked up and delivered to the various charitable organizations that Santa’s Helpers support.
“I was blessed with having a great career with Spec Mix and being surrounded by a great group of guys to work with,” says Carney. “Spec Mix has allowed me to do this program for the past three years to give back to the community that supports us.”
Looking Ahead to 2021
Harris brings up the Texas motto as inspiration for an even bigger and better year in 2021: “Go big or go home.” He says the BBB for Bikes program’s goal this year is to raise at least $70,000 and acquire 1,400 bikes. They haven’t started making formal plans yet because of the times’ uncertainty — they don’t yet know if the fundraising will be held in person or online.
“We just feel like we’ve got to do the best with what we have,” says Harris. “It’s been so well-received in the industry. The mason contractors that buy the materials were the same mason contractors that bought last year but with a few more added. The same suppliers that donated last year all donated again this year, plus more. So it’s spreading and getting bigger every year. Helping the community is what I’m all about.”
For additional info and videos about past events, go to www.SpecMix.com. To donate, contact Trey Harris at Trey.Harris@Quikrete.com or (214) 728-4592. Sign up for the Spec Mix newsletter to keep up to date on their efforts at https://www.specmix.com/contact-us.