Sometimes, it really is who you know. The Seattle-based Northwest Lions Foundation knew the right person, and that person gave the charity a gift that will save hundreds, if not thousands, of children from life-altering sight and hearing problems.
Red Bingham, an 87-year-old retired marine construction worker, and his wife Beverly, gave the Northwest Lions Foundation the boost it needed to purchase a new Kenworth T660 tractor that would pull a new trailer designed for vision and hearing screenings. The Lions Foundation uses the tractor-trailer to visit schools in Washington State and Northern Idaho and offer free hearing and sight tests for elementary school children to identify potential problems before they interfere with learning.
The truck travels about 25,000 miles a year, the organization said, conducting tests on about 28,000 children. About 12-14% are identified as having previously undiagnosed sight or hearing problems.
“The [old truck’s] engine had been rebuilt and they had to do repairs nearly every year they had it,” said Bingham, himself a member of the Lions. “It was too small and under-powered to be pulling the old trailer, let alone a new one. I’d been in heavy construction work all my life and I know the value of durable and reliable equipment. Kenworth has always made the best trucks and that’s what we wanted to see hauling the new trailer. My wife and I talked it over, and we both agreed: the only way we were going to get what we wanted would be if we bought the tractor ourselves.”
The problem was how to raise the $150,000 cost of the new tractor. The Lions Foundation was already in the process of raising another $150,000 for the specialized trailer. Then came a solution. The Binghams donated 3,000 shares of Paccar stock with a value of $148,000, with the stipulation that the proceeds could only be used to purchase a tractor.
“Our wish list included a new tractor, but we really needed to raise $150,000 for a new trailer first,” said Roger Richert, chairman of the Northwest Lions Foundation Board of Trustees. The Foundation is a division of SightLife.
The Bingham’s worked with Mike Parker, operations manager for the Lions Health Screening Unit, to identify the specs needed to pull the specialized trailer. Kenworth Northwest, in Marysville, WA, supplied the vehicle, a dark metallic blue Kenworth T660 with a 380-hp. Paccar MX engine, 38-in. AeroCab sleeper, and 10-spd. automatic Eaton UltraShift transmission.
“The Kenworth T660 is a beautiful truck,” Bingham said. “I am so pleased that the increase in value of the Paccar stock over the years allowed us to give the foundation enough funds to buy the truck. It was my wife’s idea to buy Paccar stock when we used to live near the Kenworth factory in Seattle on old Highway 99 nearly 62 years ago. We used to watch the new Kenworth trucks as they left the plant. Kenworth used nearby Highway 99 to test drive them.”
The truck and trailer combination made its maiden voyage to Shoreline Christian School in Shoreline, WA, late last year. When possible, the unit will conduct free public health screenings for adults as well, including hearing and sight checks, blood pressure, glaucoma and diabetes testing.
“I was floored when Red told me that he and Beverly were going to buy us a Kenworth truck,” Parker said. “I’ve driven Kenworths working as a log truck driver and I love Kenworths for their comfort and durability.”
The Northwest Lions Foundation helps restore sight and hearing to individuals throughout the Pacific Northwest who cannot afford the medical care or special equipment they need. The foundation also operates the Lions Health Screening Unit. The foundation started in 1969 as the Northwest Lions Eye Bank.