Accepting a Challenge: School spirit, dealership backing help Cane Bay High earn $10,000 from Buick for lining up test drives

Cane Bay High School was awarded $10,000 this summer for its efforts in the Buick Drive for Your Students educational promotion. McElveen Buick GMC was a sponsor. From left are James Gaskins, assistant principal at Cane Bay High; school principal Dr. Lee Westberry; Becky Palazzola, Buick GMC rep from McElveen; and dealership chief Doug McElveen (Jim Parker/Staff 8-6-2014).

Credit the power of social media, brand new cars and monetary perks to enable a local high school to bring out hundreds of volunteers on a Saturday to go driving.

Cane Bay High School won the nationwide Buick Drive for Your Students challenge this summer, meriting a $10,000 prize. The school's top administrators met at McElveen Buick GMC last week to praise the students for their efforts and to take part in a "photo-op" check presentation with an oversized duplicate.

The school actually received the award a month or so ago and divvied up funds, with the most active participants - the band followed by the football team - getting the largest shares and the rest spread out throughout the school.

"They were so excited," said Lee Westberry, principal of Cane Bay High. "It was the best fundraiser we've had," assistant principal James Gaskins added.

McElveen Buick GMC breached the idea of Cane Bay High taking part in the Buick challenge. The dealership resides in the Berkeley County part of Summerville, and Cane Bay is the closest high school in the county.

"When McElveen proposed it, we jumped at it," she said. "McElveen did an amazing job." Todd Smith, general manager, was confident, too that Cane Bay could achieve the goal, the administrators said. Meanwhile, word spread among the students through social media.

Based on the carmaker's rules, Buick would "donate" $10 for each test-drive of one of the new models on hand, up to 100 drives. If organizers reached that mark, the total would double to $20 a drive. The maximum amount would be $10,000, which would require 550 drives in all. Motorists had to be at least 21 years old to participate, and "no more than two donations per household" were permitted.

According to local backers, Cane Bay High had more participants than any school in the country.

The school off S.C. Highway 176 encouraged interest by informing campus groups that the group that recruits the most drivers would get to keep $2,500, the principal said.

The school got word in early May and held the drive on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. "The amazing thing, this was turned around in three weeks," Gaskins said.

Doug McElveen, dealership owner, said the car store wanted to help out. "Buick Motor division presented it to us. My staff embraced it," he said, singling out manager Becky Palazzola as spearheading the outlet's effort.

McElveen Buick GMC sponsored the one-day drive event while also supplying the new vehicles for motorists. "They got with Dr. Westberry and they made it happen," McElveen said.

According to the Buick Drive for Your Students website, the carmaker launched the promotion to offer schools "dynamic opportunities to support their extracurricular activities and sports programs."

At the same time, the student driving fundraiser builds off Buick's "commitment to academic achievement through the Buick Achievers Scholarship Program."

The event also was a psychological boost for the high school and surrounding neighborhoods.

"This speaks volumes about the Cane Bay community," Gaskins said.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or