News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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January 30, 2014

United Way donor thrilled to win car

TERRE HAUTE — With a turn of a key, Deborah Thompson on Thursday won a 2013 Chevrolet Spark as part of a fundraising effort for the United Way of the Wabash Valley.

“I can’t believe it,” Thompson said after the car started inside a showroom for Terre Haute Chevrolet, which provided the vehicle for the fundraiser, which generated $66,675.

Thompson, treasurer and benefits manager for Covered Bridge Special Education, went into the finals knowing she planned to give the car to her granddaughter, Sabrina Weir, a 16-year-old student at Terre Haute North Vigo High School.

“We just bought a new car, so we really didn’t need one, but she has got her permit and needs to have a vehicle. It sure looks like a perfect car for a 16-year-old, doesn’t it?” she said, shortly after winning the vehicle.

Thompson’s granddaughter will have to learn how to operate a stick-shift manual transmission on the vehicle.

“She is going to learn how to drive one!” Thompson emphasized with a smile. “It is a cute car that I think she will enjoy driving.”

Thompson admitted she was anxious, especially after having a slight problem getting the key into the ignition.

“I was sure hoping that that key would start that car, but I didn’t want to count my chickens before they hatched,” Thompson said.

Thompson was the third of four finalists to sit in the vehicle and attempt to start it.

“It was a little bit disappointing, but it was just fun” to have the possibility of winning, said Wil Downs, assistant vice president of human resources at Indiana State University. Downs was the second to try to start the vehicle. The first was Christopher Miller, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

The fourth contestant was Dennis Breeden of Bloomington, who works for a Terre Haute-based company. All three non-winning finalists will receive one free car detail and one year of oil changes from Terre Haute Chevrolet, said Bill Lutes, general manager of Terre Haute Chevrolet.

It was the third year the company has provided a vehicle for the United Way Give-A-Way, Lutes said.

“The United Way asked for our participation and we were more than willing to do this,” Lutes said. “I know it created a lot of excitement for [the United Way], but it creates a lot of excitement for us here too.”

There were 886 people who were eligible for the drawing and 2,667 total entries, said Troy Fears, executive director of the United Way of the Wabash Valley. Entries were made for every $25 in new money donated, “so if someone donated $50 more than last year, they received two entries,” Fears said.

“This car incentive has been a great tool for us to use in the campaign to increase gifts and create momentum and excitement for the [fundraising] campaign,” Fears said. “It is clear what is raised here, stays here and all these folks were local people who had a chance to win the car,” Fears said.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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