Becky and Willy Auchmoody.
Halmar International, one of New York State’s largest public works contractors, sponsors a dirt track race team that races at locations in the lower Hudson Valley of New York, primarily Accord Speedway and Middletown Speedway. The team’s driver, Willy Auchmoody, has raced dirt and asphalt tracks in the area for more than twenty years. Auchmoody also is a sales representative of Jesco, the John Deere dealership for much of the New York metropolitan area and New Jersey.
Several years ago Willy Auchmoody’s wife, Becky, developed a passion for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. It started in 1999 when a local radio station was running a promotion to raise money for St. Jude’s.
“I decided to get involved primarily by working with the kids and teachers in our local school district to raise funds,” said Becky. “Since then we have managed to raise about $50,000 for needy, sick children receiving treatment at St. Jude’s. In 2012, I was invited to visit St. Jude’s and to attend a seminar they were putting together to help support fundraising activities like the one that I was involved in. I met with some resistance at first, but was eventually able to convince my husband, Willy, to also attend. Let me be clear, it wasn’t difficult to get Willy to attend because he was too busy or didn’t think it was important. Willy knew the trip would tug at his heartstrings and wasn’t sure if he was up for it emotionally.”
Becky said they were both unprepared for what they saw.
“There’s nothing more difficult than watching young children suffer through some very difficult treatments. On the other hand there is nothing more inspiring than hearing the stories of children that would not have otherwise received treatment, getting the treatment that they needed and returning to good health.”
Following the trip, both Willy and Becky were inspired to take their fundraising to the next level. Unfortunately, the local school system discontinued fundraising events on school premises.
“Using the school teachers and the kids for fundraising was really the backbone of our plan,” said Becky. “It felt like we had been kicked in the stomach. Then the thought occurred to us that we are reasonably well known in the local racing communities and have a good relationship with some of the track owners. Maybe that was our opportunity. We contacted the owners of Accord Speedway and they basically told us that we could do whatever we would like to do. Willy approached Chris Larsen, president of Halmar International and the sponsor of our race team. Chris came up with the idea of using a race weekend that Halmar was already sponsoring at the track and turning it into a fundraising event for St. Jude’s, thus became St. Jude’s Night Presented by Halmar Racing at Accord Speedway, Friday, June 27, 2014.”
Halmar and the Auchmoodys set up games and bounce houses for the kids, and worked with a large number of area businesses and other charitable contributors to hold a large Chinese auction. In addition, several businesses made donations for silent auctions. The track promoters made special announcements throughout the evening encouraging people to give, and a barbecue and fireworks show boosted attendance at the track.
“We were able to work closely with Erica Decker, ’Miss Accord,’ to put together a race program for the evening, which gave biographies of all of the local drivers and their race teams, and was supported by local businesses with advertising. Local organizations like our police and fire departments also got involved in raising money. The result was at the end of the evening a wonderful contribution from Halmar of $5,000 brought the grand total of our efforts to $21,431 — the best fundraising year we have ever had for St. Jude’s.”
Chris Larsen, principal and president of Halmar, said passion for racing helped bring the event together.
“Ever since I was a little kid I have had a fascination with big engines and race cars. My brother and I used to attend races at Middletown all of the time. Over the years, the racing had slipped to the back of my mind, but recently I got the bug again and decided to put together a Halmar race team. We were familiar with Willy Auchmoody’s racing reputation and liked the connection he had to the construction industry as a sales representative for Jesco. The whole program just seemed to come together. We have been splitting up the race events that Halmar and Willy appear at between Middletown and Accord. When Willy and his wife came to me with the idea for the St. Jude’s fundraiser it felt good; we just knew that it was the right thing to do.”
Halmar is one of New York State’s largest civil contractors. The company has worked on iconic projects such as the Yankee Stadium train station, the Alexander Hamilton bridge project (the largest project in the history of NYSDOT), as well as work on Tower 2 of the World Trade Center.