“Ballistic“ BJ Baldwin
For my final example of how Automotive Enthusiasts give back I selected “Ballistic” BJ Baldwin. He's a 4 time off road champion who drives for Monster Energy and Toyo Tires. He, with the help of a crew member, went to a Walmart to gather supplies and toys for orphanages in the Baja. What makes this unique is that he spent his own time, money, and a late night shopping trip to get everything. He didn't hold an event, he didn't ask for donations, BJ Baldwin just went out and did it on his own. His personal truck, named “Trophy Diesel,” was filled from rear seats to the bed of the truck with toiletries, toys, supplies, and tools.
In an email conversation with BJ, I asked him how this all came about. “I have helped Baja orphanages in the past and I choose to continue to do so because it is my way of giving back. In the United States we are the land of the free… kinda. When it comes to off road racing in the USA we are limited by the BLM on what we can do and when we can do it. Our government heavily and sometimes abusively regulates desert racing. There is always some plant, some bug, or some rock that is of critical concern and they are constantly closing more off road recreational areas.” Which is true, we are still fighting to keep Johnson Valley OHV open and race tracks are even suffering from closures made by government officials.
Why Baja, Mexico, though? “In Mexico we have a tremendous amount of vehicular freedom,” BJ continues, “We can pre-run in our trucks when we want, where we want, and how we want. They let us race on their farm land, on the beach, and in various beautiful areas of Baja. They love us. Stopping to talk to fans, taking pictures, signing autographs, doing social media contests, and donating toys and supplies is my way of showing my appreciation. It's my way of giving back.”
So, why a Walmart? “I decided to go to Walmart because you can get a lot of good stuff for your money. For toys we got footballs, basketballs, transformers, toy cars and trucks, we also got toys for girls such as dolls and other things. For supplies we got toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, soaps, toilet paper, razors, and feminine hygiene products.” Typically, Walmart loves this kind of attention and doing charitable things. Why did the employee get mad and ask them to stop filming? Mostly from a misunderstanding. BJ says, “The employee did not know our intentions. We would have talked to a manager but we didn't have time. Later she allowed us to film.”
Why Do People in Motorsports Give?
So, why do we do it? Why do we give time and money when we have so little of both because of how our hobby or profession is? It is because we are such a small community and that creates a family atmosphere? I asked Mike Welch, Ryan Sage, and BJ Baldwin this question and here is how each answered.
“As a shop, we're always looking to give back to our customer base. We always get something from them and we try to give back to them. But, (the toy drive) was an opportunity to use that to give to somebody else.”
“Yeah, I think that's definitely part of it,” Ryan says referencing the small community and family atmosphere, “I think what you see in drifting is you see a lot of people getting together and helping each other out in the competitive environment and when they have a battle on the line or points on the line, you see that happening in that instance. Obviously, it's going to be much more of a greater extent when that's not going on and it's just us taking care of each other.”
“I think people always talk about the camaraderie within drifting, and it's truly the case here. The fanbase, the sponsors, the teams, and the drivers that came out on their own time and put wear and tear on their cars. Sponsors came out and offered a lot of prizes. We had drivers who didn't bring cars come out, like Ken Gushi, who hung out and supported the (Hurricane Sandy Relief Drive). We had two-time champion, Tanner Foust, out here just supporting what we're doing and believe in what's going on. So I think those are testaments to the camaraderie we all have.”
“I can't speak for other people in the motorsports industry but I know us off roaders like to help down in Baja because of a couple reasons:
1. Because we appreciate all the people of Baja that love and support our sport.
2. Because we can. For just a few bucks you can change a kids life for the better.
We are fortunate to have the means to live the way that we do. With clothes on our back, a roof over our heads, and food in our stomachs. And we are truly blessed to have the ability to race in Mexico. We are grateful.”