On Saturday, Oct. 7, hundreds of ODT Jeeper members, friends, supporters and firefighters gathered at Fiddlers Green Irish Pub & Eatery in Trinity, Fla., for Raise the Heat for Pasco County Firefighters, an event that featured live music from the Bearded Brothers Band and raised thousands of dollars for the department.
To learn more about Raise the Heat and the group behind it, Jeepin’ Central Florida spoke with Ashlee Tew, president of ODT Jeepers, shortly after the event.
Ashlee, what’s your role in ODT Jeepers, and how long has the group been around?
Well, they’re all claiming I’m the president, so I guess I’ll go along with it! We started the group in March. We came up with the idea of having a small, local Jeep club for the Odessa/Trinity area — that’s how we got the name “ODT.”
Is charity work a big part of the group’s mission?
It is, but Raise the Heat was our first big event. We did a backpack drive for kids during back-to-school season, and we plan to hold a lot of smaller events and get involved in more charities. When we started the group, we mostly just wanted to have a good time in a fun, low-key, family-oriented group.
Who came up with the Raise the Heat idea? Are there any firefighters in the group?
We do have a couple retired firefighters in the group. But the idea really came from just wanting to do something for law enforcement or emergency services. We didn’t see a lot of charities for firefighters, so we picked them.
How long did it take to put the event together?
We first started about three months prior to the date of the event, but we really started hustling in the last month. We reached out to the Pasco County Firefighters and started spreading the word among other Jeep groups and in the community. We went on Facebook and Instagram and created a separate event page. We called and visited businesses to hang posters and put flyers on the windshields of parked Jeeps. If there was a Jeep that didn’t have an ODT banner or any other group’s sticker on it, they got a flyer.
I realize building up ODT Jeepers was not your primary goal, but did the group get any new members out of the event?
We actually bannered one Jeep at the event. We probably got a few Jeepers interested in what we do. But you have to take a couple steps to get that banner, working both in the community and with our club.
Did you have Fiddlers Green to yourselves?
The restaurant was open for business, and of course the band itself brings a pretty good crowd. The owner, Vince LaMattina, bought all the firefighters a free drink and covered the band’s fee, and the Bearded Brothers donated $250 back to the charity.
What was the event like?
It was awesome! It was also hectic, but it was a rush. I had never done anything like that before. It was really rewarding to put something like that together for our firefighters. Our community and the other local Jeep clubs really stepped up. The band was awesome. The firefighters brought a “Touch-a-Truck” firetruck for the kids, plus a bounce house provided by ODT Jeepers and a kids-only giveaway sponsored by JCF. We also had a silent auction. The big item was a full set of Jeep tires worth up to $1,300, courtesy of Trinity Auto Repair and Hercules Tires. And we raised a lot of money for our first event — just over $7,000!
Thank you, but I had a lot of help from our group members. I couldn’t have done it without them. David Gesualdo helped me tremendously. He guided me through the process and introduced me to other Jeep group leaders. My husband, Danny, Theo and Lynette Papapanos, Beverly Harris, Craig Kendall and Fred Golliner all stepped up to help organize the event and hand out flyers. I hate to leave anybody out, because those are really just a few of the many people who went out of their way to make the event possible. They’re the main reason it was so successful.
Any plans for a follow-up event?
We are definitely going to have another event. I’m not sure when or for what just yet. We are definitely open to ideas!
Nuts and Bolts
Ashlee Tew is president of ODT Jeepers and owner of Hair by Ashlee L. Tew in Trinity, Fla. The group’s first major charity event, Raise the Heat for Pasco County Firefighters, was held on Saturday, Oct. 7, at Fiddlers Green Irish Pub & Eatery and featured live music by the Bearded Brothers Band. The event drew hundreds of attendees and supporters and more than $7,000 in donations.