Peninsula Subaru owner John Dionas knows that despite living in an affluent and beautiful place, you don’t have to look very far to find people struggling day to day. “If you drive just 10 minutes from our community, you will see some of the poorest neighborhoods around where kids are suffering every day,” said John.
As a father of four and a local business leader, John has decided the focus of his personal and business charitable contributions will go to programs that encourage, feed, help and foster the young and potentially vulnerable.
John Dionas is a name well known to many in the community. Having lived in Gig Harbor for 25 years, and owning his dealership for 18, many have purchased vehicles from John and his staff. Others have gotten to know him through rotary meetings, interactions and events with his children and volunteering his time with the organization he supports. “I’m all about the kids that need the help, and hopefully what we do makes a difference in a child’s life,” he said.
The largest and most fun fundraiser done each year is the annual Peninsula Auto Group Kids Classic Golf Tournament, held at the Canterwood Golf and Country Club. The word “tournament” is used lightly as this is a very non-competitive event that has more of a party-like atmosphere than a competition.
“It’s a complete party,” laughed John. “No one takes anyone seriously and we always have a great time. It’s very relaxed and everyone just has fun.”
While admittedly not an avid golfer himself, John has grown to really love the event and has carved his own niche on tournament day. Playing host doesn’t leave much time for golf, so after making hundreds of phone calls and reminders leading up to the big day, John has decided to spend his day in the cart.
“I make the introduction and get the tournament started in the morning, and the rest of the day I’m pretty much driving around in the cart with a cold beverage, shaking hands, thanking people and making sure they are having a great time,” said John.
The Kids Classic begins with lunch and registration, and play begins at 1pm. There are raffle tickets for items that in the past have included roundtrip airfare, diamond jewelry, theatre tickets, Seahawks merchandise and outdoor living supplies. Now in its 16th year, the event has become a local favorite not just for family and friends but John’s employees as well.
“We have 95 employees and almost all golf, come out for lunch or contribute financially. I’m proud that they donate what they can, $5, $10, $50, $100—it all helps.”
The Kids Classic is meant to be a fun Friday out of the office, but its purpose serves a much bigger function than simple entertainment. The thousands of dollars raised each year supports organizations who work tirelessly to improve local communities and impact potential at-risk youth. John has chosen three organizations to benefit from the Classic: Children’s Home Society of Washington, Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH Food Bank and Community Services, and Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
Children’s Home Society of Washington operates the Key Peninsula Family Resource Center in Vaughan. The center offers early learning and family support programs. New parents will find a safe place for their children to learn and play in groups, attend preschool and have parent-focused classes as well. Family support groups offer the tools to raise healthy and happy children including mentoring groups for elementary, middle and high school students, basic needs like diapers, school supplies and clothing, and a host of referral services for those in need of additional or specific assistance.
FISH is located in Gig Harbor and is most well-known as an emergency food bank, but the organization offers many additional programs to help those who are struggling. Clothing for both adults and children are donated, financial assistance to help pay for a month’s utilities, rent or prescription medication, counseling and van transportation to doctor visits are all available here. Every Christmas John and his family volunteer here and donate food. Last year he was touched by the work that was being done and decided to pony up for a brand new van so FISH can deliver seniors to appointments, transport food and get kids to where they need to go as well. He knows that by having his children see the importance of volunteering and donating that they will continue the example he has set for them.
“My kids know it’s a big deal for me, our family, our company, and if I’m gone tomorrow I know they’ll continue doing it,” said John.
The Boys and Girls Club of America is a large national organization but makes immediate impact in communities throughout the Puget Sound. There are branches in Bremerton, Gig Harbor, South Pierce County, Lakewood, Tacoma, North Mason and South Kitsap. Children are shaped by observing the adults in their lives, and the mission of the Boys and Girls Club is to enable all young people to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. The Boys and Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound is serving on average over 1,300 youth each day at 14 sites in Pierce, Mason and Kitsap counties and in partnership with seven school districts.
As someone who did not inherit his dealership from family but rather built it up himself, John knows what it is like to start with very little and hopes that by sharing his success with young children in similar situations he can make a positive impact so they can achieve greatness in their lives. “My philosophy has always been what goes around comes around, you just need to do the right thing, right? I mean, why not?” said John.
There are still slots available for the 16th annual Kids Classic Golf Tournament, which will be held on Friday, September 21st. Your participation fee gets you 18-holes and a cart, lunch and beverages with all proceeds benefiting these local organizations. You can sign up as an individual or foursome, and hole sponsorships are also available if you would like to get your business some added exposure. You can stop by Peninsula Auto group to register or call John or Pam at 800.458.5808.
The Kids Classic is put on by Peninsula Auto Group, not for the notoriety, but because a passion and dedication to helping children is a primary focus in John’s life. While he isn’t directly encouraging other business leaders in the community to follow his lead, he hopes he is setting an example of what doing the right thing really means.
As John said, “It feels great, I have a great pride of ownership and have the funds to make a difference, so why not?”