Oak Hill Elementary School third grader Shelby Hammons transformed her love of cars into a Hot Wheel-fueled philanthropic pursuit that has drawn interest and support from as far away as Montana and California.
by Michelle Floyd
With Tim and Nikki Hammons running Rob’s Performance—a custom body shop that works on Hot Rods—in Conyers, Georgia, it stands to reason that their daughter would share their love of cars.
Oak Hill Elementary School third grader Shelby Hammons has collected thousands of Hot Wheels cars, trucks and other vehicles over the years. She races some of them with friends but displays the “very special ones” in her Covington home. Shelby has also shared her passion with others, all while helping various causes around the state. For the last few years, she has sold Hot Wheels and some Matchbox diecast toy cars at classic car shows around the area.
“It was something we came up with,” Tim said. “We just put a few cars in back of the car to sell one time and it got positive feedback, and it’s just kept growing and growing.”
Tim, who showcases vehicles and emcees at car shows, admits they have lost count of how many Hot Wheels they have sold and how much money they have raised. They decided when they started selling cars that they would donate a portion of the funds raised to certain causes each car show was supporting. The rest of the funds go to purchasing more Hot Wheels, so the process can start all over again at the next event.
“If anything, we’ve lost money on this,” Tim said. “Some-times at shows, we will raise $1,200, but some are only $30.”
“We just put a few cars in back of the car to sell one time and it got positive feedback, and it’s just kept growing and growing.”Tim Hammons
Groups like JB Diecast in Great Falls, Montana, and Norcal Collectables in Chico, California, have assisted the family with raffles and donations, as have local businesses. Others follow them to car shows to offer support. “We have friends who will come sit with us all day,” Nikki said. The Hammons started their philanthropic pursuits by supporting friends Kale and Marissa Waddleton through Caleb’s Cause, which raises money to relieve financial burdens of families with sick children. They have since expanded to other organizations. Some of 9-year-old Shelby’s favorite causes involve police officers, firefighters and other first responders. “They need equipment and lots of things to help us survive,” she said. Sometimes, the Hammons family attends specific shows to support a given cause. Other times, someone contacts them. “We have about 15 people who follow us around,” Tim said.
The family acquires its Hot Wheels through day-to-day shopping, purchasing cases of cars from wholesalers or retailers, finding special collections and through public donations. Mattel even provided a case of cars one Christmas. Most items sell for a few dollars, but true collector pieces can go for exponentially more. Tim has been known to buy Hot Wheels that look like the actual cars he works on at his shop—a quirk his customers appreciate. He can see no rhyme or reason in who buys what at shows, though he believes nostalgia does play a role in it.
“Sometimes, it’s collectors, and recently we had a 25-year-old buy $140 worth at one show,” Tim said. “Some car show people buy them for their kids, and some just start collecting.”
Beyond raising money for those in need, the experience has taught Shelby, an only child, valuable life lessons.
“She learned quickly to be a good talker,” Nikki said. “She has learned how to be compassionate to others and respectful to other people. She’s learning how to be a money manager and have conversations. I just hope she inspires other children to be helpful.”
In addition to participating in hometown car shows in Covington, the Hammons family has traveled to Loganville, Conyers, Social Circle, Winder and Gainesville. They often set up in the back of a truck or a trailer, but they have started running Hot Wheels tracks during shows to allow children to play with some of the cars they sell.
“It’s just neat and fun for the kids,” Tim said.
Shelby hopes to one day attend the Hot Rod Run in Tennessee to raise “lots of money to help lots of people” and so her cause can continue to grow in the years to come. Even with the coronavirus pandemic canceling some shows and slowing down the schedule, the family remains grateful to have been able to keep the project alive.
“I like that I can see the kids’ faces when they get Hot Wheels and see the fun and cool Hot Wheels they like,” Shelby said. She aspires to eventually turn her passion for helping others into an even more hands-on endeavor, aiming to become a surgeon when she grows up. “I want to help people live.”
For information, visit the Shelbys Helping with Hot Wheels on Facebook at Facebook.com/ShelbysHelpingWithHotwheels.