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A Good Old Car Finds a Good Home

I got rid of a car I loved the other day. It was a 1997 Honda Accord. I bought it used and drove it for a decade or so. The color was officially blackcurrant, a dark burgundy. With alloy wheels and a roof rack for multiple toys, it was mildly sporty.

This car took me places … like a couple of hours north to the base of Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, where I’d take my bicycle off the roof and ride up the Northeast’s highest peak or around my city. One Halloween night as a friend drove, I wriggled through the moon roof and unfurled huge bat wings. It took me to races, on dates, to family gatherings and to exotic places like the ferry in Stonington, Maine, where I’d park, throw on a backpack and get some truly fresh air. The odometer read 174,000 miles. The car never left me stranded.

 A Good Old Car Finds a Good Home I’d love to be driving it for another decade. Problem is I got lost in Boston a couple of months ago. As I scanned the skyline for the expressway I should have been on, I slammed into another car, crumpling my rear-side-passenger door so badly it never opened again. That’s why the car failed inspection and was essentially totaled.

Since I couldn’t get an inspection sticker, I gave my car away. I chose the American Cancer Society. It was easy. I went to ACS’s car donation website, printed out a form, and mailed it with my expired registration to Advanced Remarketing Services, the company that liquidates the cars for the Society.

Saying Goodbye

A couple of days later, on a perfect summer day during my staycation, Jim Ventrillo of JJ Towing showed up with his rig. It already had another car on the flatbed. Mine he was going to tow.

 A Good Old Car Finds a Good Home “Got the title for me?” he asked.

“No, I already handled all that with the American Cancer Society.”

“You’re giving it to the American Cancer Society? I’ve been battling cancer.”

You never would have guessed it. Jim looks young and strong for his 70 years, built like he could have hoisted my car onto the tow hook without the hyrdraulic lift. He told me he’d just finished his latest round of chemo. Although the treatment tired him out, he didn’t miss a day of work. On top of his lymphoma, doctors have found a heart issue that they will operate on if he can stay in remission long enough. “It’s a Catch 22,” he says. “If the cancer doesn’t kill me, the heart will.” He laughs easily.

 A Good Old Car Finds a Good Home The doctors say he has the right attitude. Although he works seven days a week, he finds time on the weekend to play cards and have a few beers. He managed to quit smoking on the advice of the heart specialist, who warned him that if he does get the surgery, recovery will be easier without the cigarettes. “So I finished the four I had left in my pack, and that was it,” says Jim. “My wife, Trish, helped. She quit along with me.”

His attitude has helped as well. “It sounds corny,” he says, “but cancer has taught me to enjoy every day. I’m happy if I’m above ground and can just wake up, get in my truck and go to work.”

That work involves towing about 25 cars a month to benefit the American Cancer Society. The old cars carry a lot of memories and hopefully help create more birthdays.

Where Did My Car Go?

 A Good Old Car Finds a Good Home Advanced Remarketing Services manages the resale of cars like this nationwide. According to the company’s president and CEO, Joseph Hearn, the worst beaters, ones that pollute, go to recyclers. Depending on age and condition, others go to parts sellers, salvagers, wholesale auctions, retail auctions and occasionally – like a classic 1957 Ford Ranchero recently – to eBay. I’m going to guess mine went to a part seller or salvager.

Approximately 80 percent of the gross amount raised in the sale of cars donated to the American Cancer Society goes to the society, says Hearn. “This is the best way for donors to maximize their contribution,” he says. “There’s no better car donation program than the Cars for a Cure program.”

Back at my house, Jim hooked up my car and got in the truck. I asked him “As a survivor, do you like it when the cars you are towing go to the American Cancer Society?”

 A Good Old Car Finds a Good Home He replied “Oh yes, most definitely, It would be like cutting my own throat if I told you to do anything different with it.”

Love that guy!

He rumbled down the street and the last thing I saw turning the corner was my faithful Accord, dented and dirty.

I received a big tax deduction for donating my old car which I put toward a sparkling new Civic. Well, used, but new to me.

As for the car I gave to the American Cancer Society, it still purrs. At least it could. I’m sure of it. 


The writer, Steve McGrath, is an American Cancer Society supporter, donor and member of the society’s communications consulting team.

Would you ever donate your car to charity? Click here for details on how to donate your car for charity.


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Laura Pontecorvo Tomlin

I just had my 19th “More Birthday.” Each one has been step by step reached and appreciated. To all my family, friends that are family, thank you for walking step by step with me.
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