Racing to Support Collision Students: Northeast Ohio I-CAR Committee Chair to Run 209 Miles for CREF Fundraiser

Hoffman Estates, Ill. (March 12, 2024) –

Ensuring the next generation of collision repair professionals is trained and equipped to hit the ground running when they enter the field is why the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) was created and the Northeast Ohio I-CAR Committee’s most recent fundraiser gives new meaning to the concept as Committee Chairman Dave Cottrell (Crash Champions; Akron, OH) prepares to run 209 miles from Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky to Kings Island in Cincinnati, OH in the Coast to Coaster, an ultra-marathon race taking place April 25-30! Proceeds from his run will benefit CREF and collision repair educational programs throughout Ohio.

“We are always looking for ways to support CREF in an effort to fulfill our committee goals, but I never like to take the easy way out,” Cottrell explains the unique fundraising idea. “Having a vendor donate parts to a local school is great, but I wanted to do something more challenging. It seems like we’re constantly relying on others to participate, and I decided to do something personally. I love to run, and after I signed up for a 24-hour event last year, I came up with the idea of using that as a fundraiser for CREF. During that event, I completed 53 one-mile laps on a trail course, raising $1,600, but that just wasn’t enough…This year, I’m participating in the Coast to Coaster, a journey run of over 200 miles.”

Cottrell began running in 2015, at the age of 51, increasing the distance over time. “Two years after I started running, I participated in my first marathon,” he recalls. “I’ve since run a total of 11 marathons, six 50-mile runs, one 100k and two 100-mile events; each of the 100-milers took about 29.5 hours to complete. This will be my first 200-plus mile destination run and is really uncharted territory for me. Besides the greater distance, I usually compete on trails, and this event is going to take place on roads, running from Sandusky, Ohio to Cincinnati, Ohio.”

Participants in the Coast to Coaster will be given six days to finish, requiring the ability to travel at least 35 miles per day; however, Cottrell’s personal goal is to complete the journey within five days, giving him a day to recover before his 60th birthday on May 1. “A crew will assist me throughout the event to help provide aid or transportation, and CREF is helping me put together a group of volunteers to join the crew and support me on this journey,” Cottrell adds. “I am allowed to leave the course but have to return to the same place I left the course before continuing.”

To prepare for the journey, Cottrell runs whenever he has some free time, training inside on a treadmill during the coldest months; however, time is often limited. In addition to working full-time as a collision center general manager and serving as chairman of the Northeast Ohio I-CAR Committee for the past eight years, Cottrell has been an I-CAR instructor for both hands-on and welding tests for the past 22 years, plus he is a husband, father and grandfather.

Despite being stretched thin, Cottrell’s love for the industry inspires him to do what he can for the next generation of collision repairers. “I got my start in this business at Maplewood Career Center in Ravenna, Ohio, where I graduated in 1982…long before the I-CAR curriculum was around. I did it the hard way, so I am all for anything I can do to make it easier for today’s youngsters.”

After graduating, Cottrell worked as a technician for many years before moving into production management and ultimately being promoted to general manager. Through his experience in this position, he has seen firsthand how challenging it can be to attract new technicians to the field. “Our industry needs to focus on the next generation,” he believes. “Today’s youth are focused on electronics and are losing the desire to work the blue-collar jobs of old, but modern vehicles are essentially motorized computers, so there’s an opportunity for our industry to capitalize on that technology to capture young people’s interest. I-CAR is introducing a new, very impressive curriculum for students that will better prepare them to enter a shop with enough knowledge to be able to accomplish something meaningful on their first day on the job.

“Schools don’t always have the means to prepare those students, so collision instructors rely on CREF and the industry to fill those gaps,” he continues. “The Northeast Ohio I-CAR Committee works closely with several local schools to help provide the uniforms, tools, equipment and training their students need as they prepare for a collision career, and then we also assist in placing those students in local shops whenever possible. CREF will always have a soft spot in my heart due to the Foundation’s devotion to schools, students and our industry.”

Cottrell’s soft spot for students is why he’s determined to make it all the way to Kings Island. It’s definitely going to be a tough venture, but Cottrell is motivated to reach his destination by the idea of raising money for collision students. He has set a goal of raising $20,000, which translates to less than $100 per mile, and supporters can choose between making a one-time donation or committing to a per-mile sponsorship at bit.ly/race-for-CREF.

“This fundraiser combines two of Dave’s passions: giving back and ultra running races. Dave’s commitment is inspiring, and we are grateful that he chose to help support collision school programs with this race,” says CREF Executive Director Brandon Eckenrode. “Please join us in supporting Dave on his upcoming incredible journey across Ohio to raise additional funds for the industry’s future professionals.”

“This journey is all about supporting the students and the educational institutions training them,” Cottrell stresses. “Please support CREF and our industry’s next generation of repair professionals by sponsoring my run!”

The Collision Repair Education Foundation, founded in 1991, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting collision repair educational programs, schools, and students to create qualified, entry-level employees and connect them with an array of career opportunities. For information on how to donate to programs supported by the Education Foundation, visit us online at: www.CollisionRepairEducationFoundation.org.

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If you would like more information about this topic or any of CREF’s initiatives, please email info@ed-foundation.org.

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