Nikki and Thomas Lees, with their baby son Tom and daughter Anna, are surrounded by friends old and new, including Justin Braby and some of his team at Braby Motors, Derick Miller and Dale Smith from Fix Auto, Barry Johnson and Barry Delaney representing SASCU and Justin Myhre from Kal Tire, who were proud to provide the Lees family with a fully refurbished 2012 Dodge Caravan. (Lachlan Labere/Salmon Arm Observer)

Shuswap family given new wheels for Christmas

Thomas and Nikki Lees overjoyed to be chosen winners of Shuswap Christmas Car giveaway

What Thomas Lees thought was a work-related service call wound up being a life-changing experience.

On Monday afternoon, Dec. 17, as Lees was wandering around the back of Braby Motors looking for an electrical problem that wasn’t there, a crowd was gathering in the show room, waiting for Thomas’ wife Nikki, his daughter Anna and baby son Tom to arrive. The reason for this ruse – the Lees were the chosen recipients of a fully refurbished 2012 Dodge Caravan in the Shuswap Christmas Car Giveaway, sponsored by Braby Motors, Kal Tire, Fix Auto and SASCU.

When at last the Lees family was united in the showroom, they were greeted with applause and the unexpected happy news.

“This is all for you,” said Justin Braby to the speechless couple. “Your friend nominated you and there were a lot of people that we had to choose from, but you guys were the ones that won.”

The Lees had been nominated for the giveaway by friend Sarah Hasselaar.

Related: A lucky Shuswap family to receive van this Christmas

Each of the sponsors contributed to the refurbishing of the van, which included gas cards and a year’s insurance. Braby’s family even threw in a new kid’s car seat, while SASCU staff donated $270.

“A life changing situation just happened…,” explained an overwhelmed Thomas and Nikki.

More than 100 entries were submitted for the giveaway, each with a difficult story, making for some difficult choices, explained Fix Auto general manager Derick Miller, who came up with idea of the giveaway with SASCU Insurance general manager Janice Giesbrecht.

“It’s something that Fix Auto has done in other communities and when Janice suggested we do it here, I was thrilled,” said Miller, who had no problem getting the other partnering businesses onboard.

In her entry, Hasselaar explained Thomas found himself unemployed just before the recent arrival of Tom Jr.

“Now he is juggling three jobs and rides from friends to make ends meet for his growing family, and is doing his best to pursue an apprenticeship…,” explained Hasselaar. “The young family contributes to this community through volunteerism and spreading their positivity with friends and strangers alike. No matter what challenges they face, Tom and Nikki keep on smiling.”

Tom was indeed all smiles with the way his work day turned out.

Related: Okanagan College tuition giveaway contest returns in 2018

“It was my favourite kind of work,” said Thomas, of the ruse. “I’m speechless, I don’t know what to say. I’m sure there’s, out of the hundreds of families that were drawn in this, I’m sure there were ones more deserving than us and I’m honoured for us to be chosen.”

Each of the participating partners were just as pleased by the experience, being able to be there for a family in need.

“It’s been an amazing experience to be part of something so meaningful for a family that truly deserves this,” said Braby.

“It’s especially nice that we could bring this boost to them at this time of year,” said Kal Tire manager Justin Myhre.

“The hard work the Lees are putting into building a stronger future is really touching. This vehicle will help them move forward,” commented Giesbrecht.


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