GCU helpers wash cars, aid Big Brothers Big Sisters
By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
Before Andrea, 8, met Hallie Rexer, her big sister from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona, she had never heard the word “college.”
Andrea hadn’t heard it in the house where she lives with her aunt and three other children, and she hadn’t heard it in her downtown Phoenix elementary school.
“Now, she has the dream of going to college,” said Rexer, who is not only a “big” but also a development coordinator for BBBSAZ. “I see the impact of the program every time Andrea and I hang out.”
Romia, a high school freshman, is a “little” who has heard the word but never dared consider it as a personal goal. Her mother hadn’t even graduated from high school.
“My little sister wants to go to Grand Canyon University,” said Laura Capello, the CEO of BBBSAZ. “There’s no way without this program that she would have either the knowledge or the help to go to college.”
Building relationships like these is the driving force behind Paul’s Car Wash, one of BBBSAZ’s largest fundraisers. It’s a week-long event that has grown larger, more boisterous and more successful every year since Paul Horton, CBS 5 meteorologist, launched it in 2007.
GCU’s Cheer and Dance teams and Thundering Heard Pep Band joined the fun five years ago, and Thunder has been adding his antics ever since. Student car scrubbers’ purple shirts blended with those donned by BBBSAZ members to form a uniform sea at Desert Ridge Marketplace.
Wednesday night was GCU night at the car wash, and there was no mistaking who was volunteering.
When Nicole Powell, coach of the Lopes women’s basketball team, arrived on the scene — flanked by players and staff members — her smile was as bright as the spotlights. Even as the sun went down, the line of cars continued. There’s nothing like having your car washed by an NCAA basketball player. Horton estimated more than 900 cars will get washed this week.
“It’s just fantastic,” Horton said. “In the first car wash, we raised about $5,000. This year, we are on track to bring in $300,000.”
GCU alone donated $5,000 this year. Its partnership with the charitable organization is growing deeper, said Leigh Critchley, Executive Director of Academic Alliances.
“It is a great organization to work with and they are always looking for more ways to connect to GCU,” Critchley said.
“BBBSAZ has begun a special high school program dedicated to supporting bigs and littles. We are working to expose the littles to STEM opportunities at GCU. They will be utilizing our Learning Lounge.”
The organization serves more than 1,600 children a year, but more help is needed. There is an ongoing waiting list for boys seeking big brothers. The car wash is important because it raises awareness as well as donations, Capello said.
“Like with many initiatives that GCU champions, this partnership is growing in a way that can truly impact the lives of youth and open up opportunities that lead to future success – and include a college education,” said Debbie Accomazzo, GCU Community Outreach Manager.
Horton, too, was a big. His little is now in the U.S. Army serving in South Korea.
“We want to make sure we were here to help,” said Eduardo Borquez, Director of GCU’s New Business Development Center, who was present with sponge in hand. “It’s for a good cause. It’s about being able to offer individual attention for those who need it most.”
Mike Rasmussen, GCU Director of Operations Expansion, has volunteered the last two years.
“This is a lot of fun,” he said. “Where else can I squirt someone with water and get away with it?”
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or [email protected].