vp2In a season of giving, Rob Van Winkle “Vanilla Ice” and Van Kirk Pools have been moved to do something very special. They have stepped up and partnered with the Darrell Gwynn Foundation to better two families’ lives by building two custom pools free of charge.

The Darrell Gwynn Foundation’s mission is simple – to provide support for people with paralysis and prevent spinal cord injuries. It was a match made in heaven with Van Kirk Pools’ mission being to build each pool as if it were going in your own backyard, and treat each customer like family.

Bobby and Tim Van Kirk, President and Vice President of Van Kirk Pools, had the pleasure of meeting Owen at the foundation’s “VIP White Party” this past October, with Rob Van Winkle, AKA Vanilla Ice, as a special guest. Six year old Owen Johnson, a big Vanilla Ice fan, sustained a spinal cord injury after his family’s van was hit by an intoxicated driver. The crash ended the life of his sister, Hannah, and severely injured the rest of his family members. But despite their loss, the entire family stays very positive and active with the Darrell Gwynn Foundation. He received a special Ninja Turtle bracelet from Rob Van Winkle that evening and was smiles the entire event.

Moved by Owen’s enthusiasm, Bobby and Tim met with longtime friend Rob Van Winkle, and they both agreed right away they wanted to do something special for the Johnsons’ and another family. “This business started with my dad, and he had a big heart for people. This is what he would have liked to see us do, and he would be very proud that Bobby and I are following in his footsteps,” Tim said. Bobby added, “I was moved by the Darrell Gwynn Foundation and how they give back. With Van Kirk Pools, we’ve been able to accomplish a lot and we love having the chance to use our talents to better someone’s life.”

Their good friend and star of the Vanilla Ice Project, Rob Van Winkle, was more than happy to take part. Rob Van Winkle replied, “Not if, but when?” after many discussions with the Van Kirk brothers. He continued, “I have enjoyed the last few years of working with Van Kirk Pools on many projects, but when they approached me about working with the Darrell Gwynn Foundation, I was all in. These brothers are a class act, and having the chance to partner with them to better someone else’s life, brings me nothing but great joy.” Rob Van Winkle is a huge Darrell Gwynn fan, not just from what he accomplished as a legendary racer, but also for what he has done to help others.

After speaking with Darrell Gwynn, founder of the Darrell Gwynn Foundation, Bobby had the pleasure of meeting Derek Avilez. Local firefighter and paramedic, Derek sustained a spinal cord injury while skim boarding at the beach with his family four years ago. This injury has forced him to rely on a wheelchair, but that doesn’t stop him from living. Since the injury, he has been very active as a Prevention Educator at schools, groups and organizations on behalf of the Darrell Gwynn Foundation.

Bobby approached both families and proposed their plan to build them each a pool, completely free of charge! Bobby told Derek, “I want to give you a place where you can get inside a pool and finally have your kids, family and friends be able to look you straight in the eye without having to bend down and try to speak to you when you are in the chair.” He continued, “I want to see your face when your kids are jumping in that pool, splashing you from head to toe from all the fun they’re having.” Derek was moved with emotion at the thought of this act of kindness.

Planning has already started with Rob Van Winkle and Van Kirk. Construction is to break ground early 2015 for both families’ pools being done in time for summer.

About Van Kirk Pools
Van Kirk Pools is a family-owned business and has been active for over 40 years. Their philosophy today is the same as it was when they started: “Build each pool as if it were going in your own backyard, and treat each customer like family.” And that philosophy has helped them become the clear leader in both residential and commercial pool and spa construction, remodeling, manufacturing, and repairs. For more information, visit http://vankirkpools.com/.

About The Darrell Gwynn Foundation
Founded in 2002 by Champion Racer Darrell Gwynn and his wife, Lisa, the Darrell Gwynn Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to provide SUPPORT for people living with paralysis and PREVENT spinal cord injuries. The foundation’s primary support program is its national Wheelchair Donation Program, which donates custom wheelchairs to individuals facing medical and financial hardships. The foundation’s Education & Prevention Program is directed at high school students to educate them on the dangers of risky behavior that can lead to spinal cord injuries. For more information please visit www.darrellgwynnfoundation.org