Santa gets a surprise new ‘sleigh’
Golden, Colo.—Bill Lee, or perhaps better known as “Santa” Bill, a beloved local Santa impressionist and owner of Laughing Valley Ranch in Idaho Springs, Colo., where he keeps reindeer and other livestock, received a Christmas gift of his own this year. Jeremiah Curtis, owner of Bodacious Diesel, presented Lee with a fully rebuilt Ford truck to replace his old one that burst into flames on I-70 this September while he was towing a trailer full of 12 borough donkeys back from Frederick after a racing event.
That accident totaled Lee’s truck, leaving him without a vehicle to tow his reindeer and donkeys to his Santa Claus gigs and races, and with Christmas right around the corner, a way to make his living.
“Bill has been a customer of mine for years,” Curtis said. “When he called me and told me what happened, it just didn’t sit right with me. I went home and told my four-and-a-half-year-old son that Santa’s truck had burned down and he instantly burst into tears. That lit a fire in me and I told my boy not to worry because daddy was going to build Santa a new ‘sleigh.’”
Curtis had an old truck that he and Lee had agreed would be a suitable replacement, but little did Lee know that Curtis had much bigger plans for getting him back on the road. He began making calls to his long time industry partners and suppliers, explaining the story and asking for donations to assist with the truck build.
“After I started making the calls, it became evident that it was going to turn into something much bigger than I anticipated or even what I’d hoped for,” Curtis said. “I didn’t even know where I was going with it, but I’m one of those guys who gets committed to something and there is no turning back.”
More and more people caught wind of the project as Curtis continued to make calls and donations began to pile up. Abbey Michel, outside wholesale sales rep for Larry H. Miller (LHM) Group, was one such person. While making her routine stop at Bodacious Diesel she learned about what Curtis was doing, which prompted her to approach Steve Albertson, parts manager at LHM Ford in Lakewood, about contributing OE Ford parts to the project.
“I think Jeremiah’s excitement about the project rubbed off on me and everybody else,” Michel said. “When heard the back story, I just thought it was a great cause and so I ran it by Steve and we’re just happy we could be a part of helping ‘Santa’ Bill get back on the road.”
LHM Ford of Lakewood donated a plethora of OE underhood parts to the project, and Michel spent multiple evenings at the shop removing the interior seats and carpet in the truck and ridding them of years of dirt, grime and animal hair.
Golden Coach Works Auto Body & Paint was responsible for the full restoration of the interior and exterior including the body work – the body of the truck was severely hail damaged and had holes and cracks when the shop received it – paint, custom chrome, and customer made decals. It also purchased parts for the build and did the custom bed liner. Cornerstone Auto Glass donated the windshield.
In all, Golden Coach Works Auto Body & Paint donated more than $23,000 and spent approximately 200 labor hours, and thousands in rental car expenses for other customers, to complete the truck on time.
“Bodacious Diesel has been a customer of ours for a long time so when Abbey approached me about the opportunity to contribute, I felt compelled to help out,” Albertson said. “I approached my GM and he was totally on board – it’s just a good cause and helps someone in need during the holiday season.”
On Nov. 18, Bodacious Diesel unveiled the completely rebuilt “Puller Express” as a surprise for Lee. The shop hosted an event and invited all the businesses and customers that donated parts and time, as well as their children and families.
“I think this whole thing just says a lot about us and how we’ve conducted business over the years. The fact that I could just pick up the phone and get the amount of support that we did shows how much of a part of this community we’ve become. It’s been something that we could put our hearts into and get creative with and at the same time help out somebody who needed it,” Curtis said. “We’re grateful to all of the partners who contributed and helped ‘Santa’ Bill get back at it.”
LIST OF BUSINESS CONTRIBUTORS:
- Golden Coach Works Auto Body & Paint
- Advance Auto Parts
- Rocky Mountain Driveline Company
- AC Transmission & A1 Transmissions & Parts Company
- Boot Hill Truck
- Industrial Injection
- Big O Tires
- VJ’s Embroidery, E&G Terminal, Tracy’s Welding
- Mountain High Performance
- D&J Towing
- Premier Performance Products Distribution
- Biscuits and Berries Catering Company
- Loeffler Stair Company
- A-1 Metal Stripping
- Larry H. Miller Ford Lakewood
- Bodacious Diesel