Jim Tenhove conjured up the familiar image of the rabbit from a series of popular commercials to describe Bob Saunders.
“He’s like the Energizer Bunny,” said Tenhove, director of finances for the Saunders Family Foundation. “He just keeps on going and going, and giving and giving.”
Tenhove first met Saunders when his daughter bought her first car from him 23 years ago.
“We became close friends and play golf together. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him.”
Tenhove approached Saunders about setting up a foundation in 2009 to better align the family’s philanthropy with federal regulations. “We could do more by raising money through a foundation,” Tenhove explained. “It opened the door to supporting sports groups and especially schools, which don’t fall under charitable status under federal law.”
He cited a donation of commercial automotive tools to Esquimalt High School for their automotive program as an example. The foundation has supported numerous schools on the West Shore, the Capital Region, the Cowichan Valley and Saltspring Island.
“Bob doesn’t say ‘no’ to anybody, and that’s part of what makes him so special,” Tenhove said. “He has people applying to the foundation all the time because he does so much. The fact the foundation has raised more than $300,000 in seven years speaks to his tireless efforts for the community.”
“There’s a lot more that Bob and his family do outside of the foundation as well,” Tenhove added. “That speaks to the kind of people they are.”
Norm Jackson, the golf professional at Cowichan Golf Club, is proud to have known Saunders for more than 20 years.
“It started with a fund-raising tournament for the Salvation Army,” Jackson said. “We have hosted the Saunders Family Foundation tournament for the last seven years. The most exciting part of that is that they run the tournament like they run the business. It’s about core values, family, going the extra mile and never being afraid to step up to the plate when people are in need and projects need to get done.”
Jackson said Bob Saunders has never lost sight of his roots, having grown up in the Cowichan Valley and keeping the tournament there as a way to stay connected.
“He gives back to sports and other initiatives, so a good portion of the money raised stays in the Cowichan Valley,” Jackson said. “It’s really been a pleasure to be involved with Bob. The Saunders are like a second family.”
Bob has been “absolutely, no questions about it, instrumental to the success of the Wounded Warrior Run BC and Wounded Warriors Canada,” said Allan Kobayashi, co-founder and director for the B.C. chapter.
“He dedicates so much time, money, passion and support in making a dream a reality,” he said. “That dream has touched thousands of Vancouver Island’s own and thousands more across Canada, with the money donated to Wounded Warriors Canada and its programs supporting ill and injured veterans like myself.”
Kobayashi lauded the Saunders family as well for selflessly supporting programs and dozens of other community events in addition to their work with the foundation. “I said at this year’s finishing line (the Wounded Warriors run on the Island winds up at the dealership every year), in the presence of the Governor General, ‘the world needs more beautiful, kind and passionate human beings like Bob and Dave Saunders. I can say for myself that Bob, Dave and the Saunders family have positively influenced my life and I love each and every one of them.”
The BC Childhood Cancer Parent’s Association is another charity that has been the target of the Saunders Family Foundation’s generosity. Susan Kerr, patient family liaison for pediatric oncology in Victoria, said while she has witnessed the positive influence the family has on the association, what stands out for her is their amazing sense of community.
The foundation provides a vehicle through the Comfy Kids program to enable families who must transport children to Vancouver for medical treatment to have one less thing to worry about.
“It is individuals and families that make up this community and Dave Saunders and his family take time to ensure those who may be facing challenges are given the support that is needed,” she said. “Taking the time to talk to those in need and to try and find ways to help and support is something I will always remember. The Comfy Kids Car Program is an example of this business reaching out to one of our most vulnerable population, kids with cancer and their families.”
The program, launched in April 2013, has helped multiple families over the years, Kerr noted.
“Pediatric oncology families are faced with many challenges and Saunders Subaru has created a huge network of support, creating that breathing room so important within this journey. As a mom who supported her son through cancer treatment 10 years ago, and as a patient family liaison, I am so thankful for Dave and the Saunders family for their critical support over the past decade.
“The compassion, and true caring nature of this family will live on, I am sure through their foundation, but also with the many pediatric oncology families who have been touched by their generosity.”