Kolar Toyota’s Quest for a Cure

Duluth dealership’s commitment to helping cure ALS goes well beyond money
by Dan Nied
Jan/Feb 2015
Kolar Toyota’s Quest for a Cure
It would be easy for Kolar Toyota to just write a check.

The Duluth, Minn., dealership would still be the title sponsor of the Kolar Toyota ALS Walleye Tournament, and they’d only have to part with a few dollars.

But just cutting a check doesn’t cut it for Kolar Toyota’s leadership team. Nope, co-owners Dave Hammer, Pete Kolar and Bernie Kolar, along with general manager David Solon, made sure their dealership was more than just a sponsor of the fishing tournament that benefits their local chapter of the ALS Association (Minnesota/North Dakota/South Dakota).

Yes, Kolar is the title sponsor – and the dealership makes an additional $20,000 donation each year – but Solon and Business Development Center Manager Pete Hammer are also members of the tournament’s committee, which meets every month.

“David and Pete are very active and they go out and meet sponsors,” said Sandy Judge, the nonprofit’s special events coordinator. They’re hands-on the week of the event. During the event they make sure our anglers are having a good time.”

Kolar Toyota’s dozen or so volunteers also help coordinate and raise funds for the silent and live auctions that follow the tournament, and arrange print and broadcast ads for the event, which began in 1995 and has begun attracting local celebrities. Last year’s tournament and auction featured former Minnesota Twins great Kent Hrbek and former NHL players Jim Johnson and Darby Hendrickson.

In 2007 Solon recognized the severity of ALS and saw how dedicated the ALS Association’s volunteers were to the fishing tournament. He decided to make the organization the main beneficiary of his dealership’s charitable dollar.

“All the people involved in the tournament 100 percent bought in,” Solon says. “There are a million good causes, but that’s why we picked this to be our major one.”

One appeal is the typical late-May date that allows the tournament to operate under “catch and release” rules. Later in the year, the state of Minnesota requires anglers to keep any fish they catch to prevent overcrowding.

“It’s a tournament for a great cause, not a tournament to put something on your dinner plate,” Solon says.
And one unintended benefit of all the hard work is Kolar Toyota’s reputation in the community.

“We don’t do it for the business, but we’ve gotten a lot from this,” Solon says. “The ALS Association has supported us like we’ve supported them. I think that’s because of how dedicated the volunteers are. It just happens to be a good result of what we’ve done. But ultimately, our goal is to help find a cure for this horrible disease.”

They’re doing just that. Last year’s tournament and auction raised more than $170,000 for the nonprofit.
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