Executives from a number of RV industry companies met Wednesday morning (April 1) at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind., to present ARK Project Now with the keys to a new A.C.E. motorhome from Thor Motor Coach. The local faith-based group from Middlebury, Ind., has captivated the public’s attention with its goal of changing the world “one act of random kindness at a time.”
“Hopefully, this helps to facilitate hundreds of thousands more acts of random kindness,” said Jason Lippert, CEO of Elkhart-based supplier Lippert Components Inc. (LCI), who spearheaded the effort.
According to Lippert, the gears began turning last year when the father of one of the five young men who initiated ARK Project Now — “ARK” stands for “acts of random kindness” — approached him with the group’s story.
“Several weeks later, Alex (Radelich) and Ted (Thatcher) came in to see me,” recalled Lippert, referencing ARK members. “I was compelled by their passion to help people…these guys have a pretty noble cause.” Hearing that the group traveled in a well-used 30-year-old coach unable even to sleep all its members, Lippert called Bob Martin, CEO and president of Thor Industries Inc. “I thought we could help these guys travel more efficiently and safely,” Lippert said.
As it turned out, Martin had similar thoughts.
“I first learned of (ARK) while watching the TODAY show,” Martin recollected (the group appeared on the show April 22, 2014). “It’s an amazing story, and for me, it hits really close to home — my daughter went to school with Alex. I did see that they were in an older motorhome and it was like, ‘How can we help these guys?’ Literally the next day Jason called — and the wheels started turning.”
Together with help from Dicor Corp., Atwood Mobile Products, MITO Corp., Sharpline Graphics Inc. and Patrick Industries Inc., plans coalesced quickly, culminating in the presentation of the A.C.E.
“I cannot believe that we actually get to travel in this,” Radelich said. “The word ‘grateful’ comes to mind — I’m grateful for the family and friends I grew up with and what they taught me about love, and I’m grateful for growing up in Elkhart, the city with a heart that just so happens to be the RV Capital of the World. Thank you from our whole team.”
According to Radelich, who founded the group, ARK Project Now embarks on its 2015 effort May 14 in Columbus, Ohio.
“Last year, we started in June; we wanted to leave a little earlier this year and stop at high schools along the way and inspire kids to be hands-on.” Noting that the group spent six to seven weeks on the road in 2014, Radelich said ARK’s goal this year is 10,000 miles, “which should take a little more than 10 weeks.”
The presentation of the motorhome underscored the unique cooperative nature of the RV industry.
“The industry blends together to do so many things that people don’t even know about. This is one, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said Dicor Corp. President Gregg Fore — a sentiment echoed by Dave Schutz, vice president of RV OEM sales and marketing for Dometic Corp. “I think it’s interesting that as competitors we fight and beat each other up in the market. But on these types of things, we put everything aside and all jump in together and row in the same direction.”