Tux & Tennies: Behind the Scenes



When it comes to giving back to their communities, car dealerships are well-known for their generosity. Grand Blanc Motorcars LTD, a dealership that sells and services new and pre-owned Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW vehicles, is one that goes above and beyond. For the last three years, the sleek and state-of-the-art facility has been the premier location for one of Whaley Children’s Center’s three major annual fundraisers, the Tux & Tennies Gala & Auction. Proceeds of the gala benefit Whaley’s nationally accredited residential and clinical programs for children who have suffered from extreme abuse and neglect.

And the man behind the scenes at Tux & Tennies is Dave Isbell, Dealer Principle of Grand Blanc Motorcars LTD. It all began when the chairperson of Whaley’s board of directors Fred Hensler was looking for a larger venue for the Tux & Tennies fundraiser. “He asked me if they could use the dealership and I said yes,” laughs Dave. “This place is made for a party.” And it has been Dave’s goal for the last three years to make Tux & Tennies a premier event. “We spare no expense,” says Dave.”We want it to have the most wow factor of any event in Genesee County.”

What does it take to throw a party that includes dinner, entertainment, dancing, and silent and live auctions that can seamlessly handle 400 guests? It takes months of planning, a lot of community involvement and the help of dedicated employees at GBMC and Whaley, as well as many generous gala sponsors, according to Dave. On the day of the event, the dealership is closed. “Everybody pitches in to get the store ready,” says Dave. When My City Magazine visited GBMC, a final walk-through was in progress to make sure the building was ready and lighting was in place. A self-described perfectionist, Dave says, “It’s all about the details. I know how to get it done. That’s my part.” And he isn’t happy until the landscaping and flowers outside and the décor inside are absolutely perfect.

daveisbell-12Why does he do it? Dave has always had a soft spot in his heart for the Whaley children. “I do it to help those kids,” he says. “They have been abused and neglected and they can’t fend for themselves. They have been bounced around from foster home to foster home and they didn’t have a normal upbringing. Whaley is their final chance for normalcy before they are transitioned into the world.”

Held on May 9, this year’s event was a huge success. As the host, Dave greeted guests and gave a welcome speech, then turned the microphone over to the emcees – Sapphire Blue CEO Fred Hensler, and Marjorie Raymer of MLive. The evening included a cocktail hour, dinner, a Champagne Décor Raffle and Super Card Raffle, as well as live and silent auctions and dancing to the Sounds of Sinatra with the Motor City Horns. The live (and lively) auctioneer was Genesee County Undersheriff, Christopher Swanson. Last year, Tux & Tennies raked in $140,000 for Whaley. This year, $180,000 was raised and will help build a second Whaley facility.

Dave is proud to be a part of the charitable spirit of giving among area auto dealers who continue to give back. “Dealerships are very generous,” says Dave. “We give 100 percent dedication. We do it, and we do it right.”


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