For years, Dale and Donna Wilson have used proceeds from their D&D Rockin Rods car shows to buy Christmas presents for needy children.After Dale Wilsons recent death, family and friends have promised to carry on with the holiday tradition one last time.In Dales memory, we will complete this seasons shows, said a note on the D&D website. We will have this last D&D Christmas for Kids it is what Dale would have wanted it is what we want. Mr. Wilson, 75, of Watauga, died Oct. 12 at North Hills Hospital from a ruptured aorta.At last weeks funeral service, many of Wilsons colleagues from the the custom car community showed up to remember him.He was surrounded by hot rodders, Donna Wilson said. He didnt want a regular funeral.On Saturday, D&D put on a car show at the Kickapoo Festival in Lipan, and shows are scheduled in upcoming weeks in Fort Worth, Arlington, Cleburne and Haltom City.At times, theyve helped as many as 200 children, including children at the Texas Pythian Home in Weatherford, Donna Wilson said. This year they will focus solely on the Birdville school district, which includes a number of cities in Northeast Tarrant County including Watauga, Richland Hills, Haltom City and North Richland Hills.We average $20 to $25 per child but I try to adopt the whole family, Donna Wilson said. The most weve had in a family is 11 children. Thats the group nobody else wants because theres too many to help out.Some years they have spent as much as $15,000 on gifts, but those are just the beginning of what they do.On the second Saturday in December, the Wilsons and their friends show up at the familys homes with a convoy of classic cars, including Santa Claus.Sometimes we have as many as 45 hot rods going down neighborhood streets to provide the gifts, Donna Wilson said. It sometimes takes a little time but it was always worth it for the look on the kids faces.The desire to help children came from Mr. Wilsons childhood, when he was one of 11 children growing up in Honey Grove, about 90 miles northeast of Dallas. He didnt want to see children go empty-handed over the holidays, so he and his wife came up with the idea to start a Christmas charity when they started promoting car shows in 2001.Dale was 19 years older than me, Donna Wilson said. When I grew up, I really had Christmas but I dont think Dale really had Christmas. When we started these shows, we were like Lets take this $10 entry fee and support these kids. It just grew and grew.Seven years ago, Cris Lofgre of Arlington saw firsthand the impact of the charity on his son Taylor.When Taylor asked his father what he wanted for Christmas, Lofgre replied that he should adopt a family and spend the day with Mr. Wilson handing out presents. Taylor, a teenager at the time, reluctantly agreed.I knew that by doing this, he would know how it feels to give of yourself to other people, Lofgre said. After spending the day with Dale, he definitely learned that.Lofgre, an Arlington resident who buys and sells custom cars, first met the Wilsons at a car show about 15 years ago. He saw what Christmas meant to Mr. Wilson the first time he joined him handing out presents.Donna did most of the talking, Lofgre said. But Dale just quietly went along and did all of these things. When you see the kids get their stuff from Santa Claus, you could see the satisfaction in Dales face. It was another year well done.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698 Twitter: @fwhanna