Serra Toyota of Birmingham
Heichelbech had earned a full-tuition scholarship to study at Auburn University when, in 2012, her dream of becoming a veterinarian was cut short. In honor of her memory, Serra Toyota has worked with area high schools to identify seniors — based on a combination of attendance and grade point average — deserving of a chance to win a new car. Over that time, General Manager John McDonald estimates the dealership has invested more than $300,000 in the program since Heichelbech’s death.
“It does require a lot of heavy lifting,” he says. “We start planning in January and the final event doesn’t happen until July. Every year, we try to outdo the year before.”
In 2019, a record 130 students from six high schools qualified for a shot at the car. They, along with family and friends, were invited to gather at the dealership for a party. Each of the students who participated was given a $100 Visa gift card and other goodies, along with a chance to be one of 15 randomly selected finalists for the grand prize.
Those lucky few were each given a key to a 2020 Corolla SE, only one of which would open and start the car. The lucky winner? Clay-Chalkville High School senior Dallas Clay. Serra Toyota also picked up the tab for the car’s taxes, first-year tag reimbursement and maintenance over its first 25,000 miles.
“We just want to show these students that good things can come to those who work hard,” McDonald says.