Serra Toyota of Birmingham

Alabama Dealership Continues to Honor Student, Seven Years After Her Death
by Dan Miller
Jan/Feb 2020
Serra Toyota of Birmingham
Oh What a Feeling!
The audience erupts when Clay-Chalkville High School senior Dallas Clay turns the key that opens the door to his new 2020 Corolla SE, the grand prize in Serra Toyota’s student incentive program.
It only took an instant for a tornado to claim the life of high school student Christina Heichelbech. But seven years later, Serra Toyota of Birmingham has steadfastly continued to honor her.

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.
 
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