Just before Christmas, Tony and Anna Hudson decided they were going to give the gift of life to a couple of young men that they had never met before.
Working with Stevensville Tire-Rama’s manager, Brad Taber, the three donated a brand-new set of studded snow tires to two Stevensville High School students.
The donation was in memory of Hudsons’ son, Wyatt, who lost his life the year before after his pickup truck lost traction, flew off the road and ran into a rail fence on Quast Lane.
The students had written essays on the importance of having good tires while navigating Montana’s wintery roads. The Hudsons and Taber hoped that real-life experience of driving with good snow tires would impact not only those two young men for the rest of their lives, but maybe even their children and grandchildren, too.
That tangible idea of giving young people a chance to experience for themselves the difference between good and bad tires in the wintertime was something that struck home beyond both in the Bitterroot and beyond.
This week, the Hudsons and Taber came together again at Stevensville High School to inform student Evynne Alexander that she, too, would be receiving a new set of studded snow tires for her vehicle. The tires had been donated by Kevin Davis of Missoula.
Davis had contacted the Stevensville Tire-Rama after learning about the fledgling program and said he wanted to be part of it. Another group from Salmon, Idaho, also reached out to Taber to see about the potential of creating something similar on the other side of the mountains.
Tony Hudson said he had also been contacted by someone living on Sunset Bench.
“They said, ‘Count me in,’” Hudson said. “Since the news came out about this, people have been coming up to me to say that they just love this idea. When you start to talk about it, people get it. It’s just never been on their radar screen before.
“My goal is for this to become a program that impacts generations,” he said. “When these kids get a chance to drive with good tires in the winter, that’s going to be something they want for the rest of their lives. And they’re going to want their kids to have good tires, too.”
Both Hudson and Taber have been a bit surprised by all the interest.
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Hudson is working now to create a nonprofit organization so he can start accepting donations to purchase tires for young people. He’s also looking to reach out to other local schools to see if they would be interested in participating in an educational program that would offer their students a chance to win new snow tires.
Hudson said he can use all the help he can get.
“My goal is to make this an annual event,” Hudson said. “We going to be working with tire manufacturers to see if they would be interested in being a part of it. It’s like the best advertising that you can get. If kids get hooked on good tires, they will be buying snow tires for the rest of their lives.
“I truly think this can be a lifesaver,” he said. “It’s an educational tool that breeds better behavior and builds self-esteem and responsibility because it lets kids know that folks care about them.”
Taber said probably seven out of 10 customers who have come through the doors of his business since the news began to spread about the tire giveaway have mentioned it.
“There’s one customer, in particular, who kind of stands out to me,” Taber said. “They had just moved up here from California and it was kind of an alarming realization for them. Their kids had never seen snow before. None of them had looked at their tires. It was definitely an eye-opener for them.
“I don’t think either one of us really knew how big of a reaction we would get from this,” Taber said. “It was something we wanted to do to help out in our local community and honor Wyatt, but we didn’t know what was going to happen after people heard this story.
“It’s been pretty amazing,” he said. “There’s a substantial number of people who have said they want to help. Hopefully, we can this turn into something that could spread to other communities in Montana and beyond.”
Hudson said he’s now looking for a name for the new nonprofit that’s coming. When the nonprofit has jumped through all its legal hoops, Hudson said 100% of the donations will go toward buying new studded snow tires for young people.
“Keeping our kids alive is a big deal,” Hudson said. “If people want to help out, there are all kinds of ways they can do that.”
Anyone interested in lending a hand can call Hudson at 406-550-1650.