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Plymouth, Michigan, Associates Volunteer at Teddy Bear Toss Event

Editor’s note: This story is part of our “50 Stories of People Helping People” series. As we celebrate Penske’s 50th anniversary in 2019, we are spotlighting associates every Friday who are making a difference in their communities.


Penske associates are no strangers to lending a helping hand and giving back to their communities, and that couldn’t be more true about associates from the Grand Rapids District in Michigan.

Over the holidays, the associates donated their time to the Plymouth Community United Way and Team USA hockey in support of the organization's annual Teddy Bear Toss. They also assisted throughout the evening by selling 50/50 tickets, hockey pucks for the “Chuck-A-Puck” promotion and teddy bears for the night’s main event.

Many Team USA fans brought teddy bears or other stuffed animals to the game – with the plan to toss them onto the ice when the home team scored its first goal.

While the anticipation was building up among the fans, they didn’t have to wait long to wind up and throw their bears onto the rink. Team USA scored their first goal less than six minutes into the first period.

The game paused as the arena staff collected the 433 toys that had rained down from the stands. They will be distributed to the United Way’s six local agencies benefiting underprivileged children living in the community.

The associates who volunteered were Bryan Bouck, Ryan Byers, Michael Dykstra, Brent Leach, Aaran Nelson, Dylan Oxender, Robert Pfeiffer, Alyssa Prevost, Brian Simms and Scott Soborowski (pictured below).

This was the first time the team had participated in this kind of event, and they hope it’s not the last.

"We all felt that it was very rewarding and would love to do it again," said Simms, a branch manager in Plymouth, Michigan.

Helping others, bringing smiles to people's faces and having fun turned out to be the perfect hat trick for this group’s volunteer efforts.

The Teddy Bear Toss was one of several community service projects spearheaded by the Grand Rapids District’s Community Council, made up of associates from across the district, under the leadership of District Manager Joe Felty.

The goal of the council is to identify volunteer opportunities throughout the district’s footprint, which extends from Lake Michigan to Detroit’s western suburbs.

“The idea of the community council was for them to identify, coordinate and communicate events that anyone in the district could participate in,” said Felty. “Not only did the events themselves have an impact, they inspired more ideas from others in the district, such as a walk to benefit the Alzheimer’s Foundation and a Touch-a-Truck day with kids at a local elementary school.”

Each of the council’s six members brings with them a knowledge of their communities, which adds to the council’s richness.

“The nice thing about having people from different areas is we know about our specific areas, and we realize what that area needs, and that is important,” said Cody Zahm, a rental sales representative in Lansing, Michigan.

In addition to the Teddy Bear Toss, the council spearheaded other events, including a volunteer event at the Greater Lansing Food Bank and a Toys for Tots drive.

By Chris Abruzzo