Camelback Volkswagen Subaru: Driving the Joy of Giving Back
A title sponsor shares what led him to support “Step Up. Stop Cancer.”

It was a chance encounter that led Joe Esposito III, Managing Partner with Camelback’s powerhouse dealership brands — Volkswagen, Subaru, Kia and Hyundai — to become a major supporter of Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

In 2015, Joe and his colleagues were touring the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Phoenix Children’s during Subaru’s annual Share the Love campaign. They were handing out blankets to kids, and came across a little boy receiving his 7th bone marrow transplant procedure. “We gave the little guy a stuffed gorilla, and he took a liking to us.” Joe and his group later spotted him in the Hospital’s parking garage, where they discovered the young boy and his guardian getting into a hot car.

“I stopped to talk with him for a moment and noticed it was more than 100 degrees outside and they didn’t have AC.” They wanted to lend a hand, and the gentleman shared his story with Joe. “He had become responsible for the young boy, and they were out of money. He had no real resources.” Joe was touched, and vowed to help. Theirs was the first of several families they “adopted,” and continued to support. It was also the moment he decided to invest the lion’s share of his company’s philanthropic efforts into championing one cause – childhood cancer.

“He’s a trooper, and just earned his 3-year coin,” says Joe with pride. That “life-changing” moment inspired not only his level of support, but the trajectory of his company’s culture along with it. Now every year during September’s Step Up. Stop Cancer. campaign during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, the company serves as a Title Sponsor, committing $50,000 to Phoenix Children’s annually to the effort.

“I always believed those who were fortunate had a responsibility to give back,” he explains. “But we decided to go all in and really make a difference in one area.” When word spread around the dealerships, Joe discovered that many of their employees’ families children were treated at Phoenix Children’s at one time. “Our employees began to see that our business wasn’t just about numbers,” he said. “It became a lot more personal,” Joe says.

“Our Christmas parties used to be focused on us. We gave out lavish gifts like big-screen TVs – but not anymore,” he shares. Now the spirit of the holidays is focused on providing Christmas for kids in need. “Even the gifts we raffle off were donated back to organizations including Phoenix Children’s. It’s taken on a life of its own and bound our employees together. There is just an amazing energy in that room at those parties now. We also invite the families we help to join us – it’s like a fraternity,”

And while they were busy giving, something else happened. Joe and his partners received a gift, too.

The business of giving pays off

Joe says he knew instinctively that giving was always the right thing to do — but he didn’t anticipate that the spirit of generosity would also be returned many times over. Since becoming a Title Sponsor for Step Up. Stop Cancer., the brands represented at his dealerships have been top performers in the market. And that wasn’t all. “We saw employee satisfaction go up, and turn over go down,” he said. “Our employees feel like this is a good place to work, where people really care.”

Joe says that spirit of generosity has revealed itself in many ways. One employee whose 6-month-old daughter was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma (ALL), an aggressive pediatric cancer, needed to take time off to care for her during treatment. “We continued to pay him for three months,” Joe says. They have also found other ways to support families coping with cancer and treatment – under the radar. “We just want to continue to find ways to make an impact at a grassroots level,” says Joe.

Joe is so passionate about the power of philanthropy that he’s inspired others in the industry to donate, also. “I wish other business owners could realize the benefits of giving back,” he says. “But we’ve found our loyal customers return because they appreciate what we do. It’s heartwarming – like one big family.”