Jim Petty and his wife Wendy had been watching the news for two weeks straight and seeing what the pandemic was doing to some of the more challenged communities as the lock-down and quarantine unfolded. He knew there was a stimulus package, but it would dry up pretty quickly. It was going to get tougher before it got better. He wanted to help.
Jim looked at his wife and said, “I want to help, we want to help, but the last thing places like Bridgeport, Bethel, Danbury, and South Norwalk need is another 61-year old guy shoveling mashed potatoes on to a Styrofoam dish.”
What the local communities needed were funds, so how could they make that happen?
How could they start a movement that would make a meaningful difference.
At the same time Jim was also coming to the realization that the car season as we traditionally know it was being cancelled with all the social distancing requirements.
He identified a need, the local communities most severely affected by the pandemic, and he also identified an opportunity to keep the car and motorcycle community from having a dormant season. With his experience as a career retail executive, Jim felt he had a workaround. He would create a short “coffee run”-type rally, like the ones normally occurring all across the country, where people get together to look at each others cars and tell stories and enjoy the camaraderie. But he would keep the numbers down, so social distancing could be better observed. The idea was for an invitation-only run with a 25-car limit, in Fairfield County, CT. Each car would donate a minimum of $100.00 that would go to local communities that have been affected by COVID-19. He was sure he could get some interest.
Using an old mailing list from the Alden Sherman Classic Car show, Jim sent out an email blast. The concept of a Rally Across America was explained. Jim wanted the proceeds of each rally to go to and benefit the communities near where the rally occurred. The recipients of the monies raised would be decided by the coordinator of each local rally. The response was immediate and overwhelming. The consensus was a resounding yes. People wanted to do something like this. Jim also connected with some of the heavy hitters in the local car community, Frank Taylor and Bill Scheffler to help with the organization and logistics.
It would have a very local feeling, but could be replicated on a national basis. Jim was creating a Rally-in-a-box concept. Jim did some quick math. With 50 states, if each state on average did 8.25 car rallies during the car season, numbers would roll up quickly to a million dollars. That’s a nice number that Jim felt could be doable.