Photo gallery of 1966 Mustang. The Mustang will be at “Bluesapalooza/Thunderfest,” Saturday in downtown Covina. It will be parked in front of Giovannis Ristorante at 143 N. Citrus Ave., You can purchase raffle tickets there.
By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
There is nothing ordinary about 33-year-old Joe Hernandez. While Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest is getting a lot of high praise for auctioning his 2010 NBA championship ring to charity, the small business owner from Azusa with a much smaller bank account has offered to raffle off one of his prized possessions for the Northview High School baseball team — a 1966 mint condition Ford Mustang valued between $40,000 to $50,000. Talk about Santa Claus arriving early. (To continue story, click thread).
Note: Raffle tickets can be purchased at the school for $20 each. Information about the car and where it will be shown in the coming weeks can be heard by calling a fundraising hotline that has been set up at 626-723-6246.
“You can never underestimate the generosity of someone’s heart,” Northview baseball coach Darren Murphy said. “It’s still difficult to comprehend. This came out of nowhere.”
Hernandez, who restores classic cars at his Solo 1 Kustoms car shop on Arrow Highway and Azusa, was driving his ’66 orange Mustang down Cypress Ave., earlier this month looking for something to eat when members of the Northview baseball team flagged him down asking for a $25 donation to enter his muscle car for the team’s car show fundraiser in the school parking lot.
Hernandez entered and his Mustang won the car show players’ choice award, but that was just the beginning. Hernandez had read about the unfortunate deaths the school has dealt with in the past month.
Northview high school assistant softball coach Fred Fraijo died in a motorcycle accident and former Northview wrestler Jesse Cruz collapsed and died while wrestling for Rio Hondo College.
When Hernandez asked what the fundraiser was for, Murphy told him the school has an ambitious dream of building an all-weather infield surface, which would be the first of its kind in the San Gabriel Valley.
Most all-weather turf surfaces are built for high school football, but some schools have done the same in baseball and softball because of the high cost of watering and maintaining the fields.
An all-weather infield surface costs roughly $40,000, and if the baseball team can raise enough, they also can add the all-weather surface around the dugout and surrounding areas for an additional $15,000 to $20,000.
Hernandez asked what he could do to help, but knew a $100 or $200 donation would only go so far. “I thought to myself, ‘donate the the car.’” Hernandez said. “This is a good cause, just do it.’”
Murphy cautioned Hernandez at first.
“He was a good man who probably got caught up in the moment,” Murphy said. “That’s why we didn’t want to announce it right away. I wanted him to think about it and make sure this was something he wanted to do because once he said yes, there was no going back.”
It was difficult to understand why a person who graduated from nearby Gladstone high school and who had no affiliation to Northview would make such a generous gesture.
Hernandez said he has other vintage automobiles at his shop and isn’t rich, it was just a feeling that he had.
“Whatever it makes for the school, whatever it does for the community I’m for it, I’m doing it from the bottom of my heart,” Hernandez said. “I’m not at the top of the world, I’m going through the same struggles that a lot of Americans are going through. But when it feels right, most of the time it is right.”
Northview is selling raffle tickets at the school for $20 each and information about the car and where it will be shown in the coming weeks can be heard by calling a fundraising hotline that has been set up at 626-723-6246.
The raffle will be held on Jan. 8 at Hernandez’s auto shop.
“There is a reason why you’re here in life,” Hernandez said. “When I was a kid I remember how tough these fundraisers were. Those kids grew on me and I thought, how great would it be to have one of the best facilities right here in our area.
“It doesn’t have to happen in just rich areas, why can’t it happen here too. Everyone deserves an even playing field.”
If Hernandez wanted to make the most money for the school, he could have auctioned his car on EBay or Craigslist to the highest bidder.
By selling tickets at $20 a pop, there is no telling how much the school can raise.
“You know why he didn’t want to auction the car?” Murphy said. “Because he wanted everyone to have a shot at it, not just the people with money.”
Murphy said the coming months are going to be busy.
“I’ve never dealt with anything like this before,” Murphy said. “We’re going to show his car off everywhere we can.
“There’s no telling how much we will make, but that almost has become secondary. Sure, we would like to raise a lot of money, but what this man has done is the real story. It’s truly amazing that someone out of nowhere would drive up and do what he did.
“That’s Santa, it really is.”
Hernandez seemed almost embarrassed by the attention he’s stirred.
“I don’t want this to be about me,” Hernandez said. “It’s about those kids and them having the same opportunities as anyone else. I had a chance to give, so I gave. It’s not about the money, the car, it was the right thing to do. I know it in my heart.”