Since 2008, Detroit-based carwash equipment manufacturer Motor City Wash Works has opened its doors to customers and industry partners to promote networking, business and good times. In 2013, the manufacturer decided to open its heart as well and incorporate a charitable component to the event. Today, this event, which for the past four years has benefitted St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, has become a main attraction and one that attendees mark on their calendars early each year.

Along with its sponsors and supporters of the event, a list of which can be seen at the end of this article, Motor City Wash Works has developed this annual two-day experience as a special time for the carwash industry and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

As noted in a message from the manufacturer to attendees following the event: “Our event continues to grow and would not be possible without the support from our distributors, customers and industry partners. … We truly appreciate all of the companies and individuals that participated to make this the largest Live Charity Auction and raffle that Motor City Wash Works has hosted to date.”

In what has developed into a great networking opportunity, this year’s event brought together approximately 200 attendees, which the company notes were split rather evenly between operators, distributors and manufacturers. The host also welcomed its industry partners again this year, including Professional Carwashing & Detailing magazine, as well as a professional auctioneer, Letitia Frye, who is a new talent that was added for the 2017 program.

From fun to focused on charity

This year’s Annual Open House and Charity Auction kicked off on Wednesday, August 9th. Following a Welcome Reception at the Volt Bar and Patio, the host manufacturer treated its guests to box seats at a Major League Baseball game, featuring the hometown Detroit Tigers against its interleague opponent the Pittsburgh Pirates at beautiful Comerica Park.

On Thursday, August 10th, guests shifted their attention to helping St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. While acts of kindness and charity are seen daily throughout our industry, Motor City Wash Works’ annual gathering has the unique ability to bring many industry professionals from across the country and beyond together — even competitors — all to benefit a great cause in a big way.

On Thursday morning, many of the event’s participants loaded into buses provided by the host and headed over to Motor City Wash Works’ facility for an Open House, barbecue lunch and plant tours. The Open House included a live auction at the Gem Theatre and a raffle — all to benefit the St. Jude Funding Cures Saving Children program.

While at the host’s headquarters on Thursday morning, participants could purchase raffle tickets for a multitude of prizes, meet with Motor City Wash Works’ hospitable team members, tour the facility and plant, and/or simply enjoy some cocktails and grub. And, if you have ever been fortunate enough to attend a Motor City Wash Works event, you know it’s almost impossible to leave hungry or thirsty from a party by this gracious host.

Gem of an event

Around 2:00 p.m., the group retreated to the buses for transportation to the live auction. From 3:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., the live auction was once again held at the historic Gem Theatre in downtown Detroit, where some of the industry’s leading equipment and products were on display and auctioned off, donated by manufacturers and suppliers. Even after several rounds of intense bidding, some of the equipment was still purchased at heavily discounted rates.

Auctioneer Letitia Frye incites bids for a dryer system at the live auction. 

In addition to carwash-related items, the auction and raffle giveaways featured original artwork created by several St. Jude patients as well as prizes, such as a TV, drone, sunglasses and a golf driver, putter and bag.

Since 2014, not counting this year’s donation, this event has raised almost $100,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which is a not-for-profit organization. According to Jim Utterback, who is the director of marketing for Motor City Wash Works, the organization is very efficient with its use of the charitable donation each year, with 90 percent of the money actually used to operate the hospital and to conduct research.

“We are honored to partner with St. Jude,” noted Motor City Wash Works’ post-event note to attendees. “Your generosity will aid in continuing the amazing work that this charity is doing to save the lives of sick children. No family ever receives a bill for treatment and all care is paid for by donations. Your noble and thoughtful donations were so heartwarming and will make a huge difference in the mission to find cures.”

Following last year’s Open House and Live Charity Auction, we spoke with Utterback about the event’s 2015 and 2016 donations and expectations for this year. “Last year (2015) we raised $20,000,” noted Utterback at the time, “and this year (2016) we wanted to double that.”

In fact, last year’s event actually tripled its 2015 mark and raised over $60,000 for St. Jude. “Our goal this year was to raise enough money to be able to donate $75,000 to St. Jude. We are so happy and proud to say that, together, we hit it out of the park,” proclaims Utterback.

With over $1.2 million worth of equipment and products up for auction and support growing, this year Motor City Wash Works is proud to donate $102,000 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Concluding the two-day event was a visit to a local watering hole, The Park Bar, for an After Glow party. While some operators might have been tipping a pint or sipping a cocktail in celebration of the incredible deals they secured at the live auction — some items were sold at under 40 percent of list price this year, adds Utterback — all party-goers at the After Glow gathering were toasting to another successful opportunity to display our industry’s kindness and compassion for yet another great charitable cause.

Planning ahead

According to Utterback, the event will continue to evolve and expand in order to attract more operators. “Our event keeps getting bigger and bigger every year,” says Utterback. “We will probably make some changes to the event next year.”

Just to pique interest for next year’s event, Utterback offered some thoughts on program additions that his team is currently considering at this time, including a golf outing, a mini vendor exhibit and a “Golden Ticket” raffle, where one lucky raffle winner could leave Detroit (or stay) with an entire carwash. For more information on next year’s event, including final details, be sure to check back frequently on www.motorcitywashworks.com and Carwash.com.

This event will surely continue to evolve, but Utterback explains that participation from operators is greatly needed in order to help the event flourish in the years ahead. With over 20 manufacturers present and participating as well as equipment and products being auctioned off well under list price, operators need not worry about calculating a return on their investment to attend — not to mention that such participation is for a great cause.

Most likely, if you attend this event once, you will want to make it a yearly plan to attend in the future. The overwhelming reaction from this year’s participants support that this event reminds us all that we are fortunate enough to be in a position to help others.

“Alice and I just wanted to say thank you for inviting us to the open house and for all your hospitality,” wrote Dominic and Alice Ahearn of Ahearn Signs in a letter to the event’s host following the two-day festivities. “You guys have a tremendous family and we really appreciate everything you do for us. If it’s not too late, Alice and I would like to donate $500 to St. Jude. Thanks again for everything. You guys are the best.”

Added another attendee following the event: “It’s always a joy to attend. It’s an honor to be a part of a small group with big hearts to make an impact on such a good cause,” wrote Tim Boutell and the Firehouse team.

“Companies like Motor City Wash Works make the mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital possible,” says Michael Hull, associate director of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “The owners and staff at Motor City Wash Works truly go above and beyond when it comes to showing support. Their annual auction not only raises funds but creates awareness. The whole team is committed to saving lives and funding research. Without partners like Motor City Wash Works, we would not be able to continue our life-saving mission. From the bottom of our hearts we thank you Motor City Wash Works.”

“Oh,” added Utterback, “the Tigers actually won the baseball game this year, which is the first win we’ve had since we started going to the game nine years ago.” Fortunately, according to St. Jude, its young beneficiaries and carwash industry participants, Motor City Wash Works’ unique event has maintained an undefeated, perfect record with MVP kindness since its inception.

If you are interested in learning more about this charity and its life-changing contributions to society, please visit www.stjude.org.

Motor City Wash Works held its annual charity event from Aug. 9-11.

A welcome reception was hosted at The Volt Bar/Patio.

A welcome reception was hosted at the Volt Bar/Patio.

Participants also enjoyed a baseball game courtesy of Motor City Wash Works, all to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

In addition to the live auction, Motor City Wash Works also held a raffle to benefit this great cause.

Carwash industry professionals gather at the barbecue lunch and enjoy a networking opportunity.

In addition to opening its heart for the charity, Motor City Wash Works also opened its doors to give visitors a unique plant tour experience.

Professional auctioneer Letitia Frye (front of stage) starts the bid at $500 for St. Jude art.

Approximately 200 attendees participated this year, well over 200 carwashes were represented at the auction.

After raising over $100,000 to donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the group enjoyed networking opportunity to close the event.

Visitors enjoyed live music at the After Glow Party at The Park Bar.

Moo Moo Express Car Wash Founder and Managing Partner John Roush illustrates approval for another successful Motor City Wash Works charity event.