The SUV that Rick Green drove his newborn babies home in will now be packed with heroes, he said in Maine last week, handing over the car keys to a Maine organization that provides a free getaway vacation for wounded veterans and their families.
His Westford-based automotive company, 1A Auto, donated a Chevrolet Equinox to the Travis Mills Foundation in rural Rome, Maine. The car will transport veterans and their families from the airport to the retreat, a key need for the nonprofit.
"This helps bring us some much-needed relief," Brandy Cain, executive director of the Travis Mills Foundation, said as Rick and his brother Mike pulled up in the 2008 teal SUV. "There's a lot of good people who are really good to us.
"That looks awesome," she added, speaking to the owners of 1A Auto. "I'm excited to drive your baby."
The SUV is one of the first cars that 1A Auto bought at auction. The company then changed more than 100 car parts, as seen in their how-to videos online.
"Instead of selling back at auction, we wanted to start giving cars to organizations and veterans who really need them," said Rick, whose father flew massive C-5 transport planes in the Air Force. "This is just the first one we'll donate, a very special one."
Rick, who ran for Congress in the 3rd District last year, recently asked his public relations manager John MacDonald if there was a veterans organization that could use a vehicle. MacDonald, a veteran and member of the Lowell-based Veterans Assisting Veterans, reached out to the Travis Mills Foundation -- and the nonprofit confirmed they needed a car.
Before heading to Maine, 1A Auto brought the car to Nashoba Valley Technical High School in Westford, where students helped inspect and tune up the SUV.
At the retreat — founded by an Army sergeant who lost portions of his arms and legs in Afghanistan — veterans and their families can get massages, canoe, kayak, participate in adaptive rope courses, read books from the Barbara Bush Foundation, eat lobster and more.
"They tell us this is better than Disneyland, the best family vacation they've ever had. We get that a lot," Cain said. "Many injured veterans can't go on a traditional vacation, but here, they can actually be an active part of the family because we have all the adaptive equipment."
The nonprofit serves about 200 veterans and their families each year. They raised $3.5 million last year to cover all costs for the attendees.
To volunteer and donate to the Travis Mills Foundation, visit www.travismillsfoundation.org.