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Federal Way couple brightens lives by fixing up cars
“It’s kind of like Pimp My Ride, but not as fast,” said Bob Bjorneby, a Federal Way auto collision repair specialist, when referencing his work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation over the last several years.
Bob Bjorneby, who owns his self-named CARSTAR Collision repair business in Federal Way, uses his skills to fix up the cars of young men who have been stricken with various illnesses, some serious, some not as, and some terminal.
“About four, five, six years ago, we got involved with Make-a-Wish … We were asked to do a rush wish,” he said. “A rush wish is one where there’s a life-threatening disease, and they’re probably not going to live much longer. We got into that, and did that one, and that took us about three months.”
According to Bob Bjorneby, Make-a-Wish gives people participating in these kind of projects a budget of $5,000. For that first one, Bob Bjorneby said people coalesced around the project, and it ended up essentially being done for no cost.”
“We called all of our suppliers, we told them what was going on … We had guys come from out of the woodwork to help us,” Bob Bjorneby remembered. “I think it cost us about $380 to restore that car, including all of our labor, but we don’t charge for any of that.”
Bob Bjorneby said that first project set the tone for the ones in the time since, including the most current one that was unveiled on Wednesday.
Bjorneby said he’s tried to follow that pattern because if he can keep costs low, the Make-a-Wish Foundation benefits.
“[These projects aren’t] for me, it’s for Make-a-Wish. If I bring their costs down, if I take that $5,000 and bring it down to $2,500, that’s $2,500 more they can put on a different wish.”
Bob Bjorneby, and his wife Linda, still recall the first project and its recipient, a young man named Daniel. Daniel eventually passed away from his illness, but he left the car to his best friend, who got into an accident while driving it. The best friend brought the car back to the Bjorneby’s, figuring since they restored it once, they could restore it again.
“It got back on the road again,” Bob Bjorneby said proudly.
For Linda Bjorneby, being part of the Make-a-Wish process is an experience that brings positivity to everyone it touches.
“Daniel … when he first came, he could hardly walk. He had to have his brother help him. We gave him the ability to log in so that he could see the pictures and progress and all that kind of stuff, and it gave him enough ‘oomph,’” Linda Bjorneby said. “It gave him enough energy to start walking. His dad would tell Bob how excited he was, and how much improvement he got, and the energy he got from the wish.”
Both the Bjorneby’s recalled that by the time the car was done, Daniel was able to regularly walk, and that he came to the shop himself and drove it out on his own.
“It’s a happy, awesome thing and it spreads out,” Linda Bjorneby continued. “You take these kids and their families, who are just burdened by the challenges they’re facing, and this lightens them up. The smiles it puts on their faces brings tears to your eyes. It ripples out. It’s just amazing what it does.”
The current wish is for David Padilla, 18, who was diagnosed with sarcoma, a form of bone cancer in his leg. The 2006 Ford Mustang he brought with him is the nicest car so far the Bjorneby’s have had to work with.
The car underwent a radical transformation in the months since it was handed over to the Bjorneby’s in early spring. Bob Bjorneby conceded that Padilla’s “wish-list” was pretty big, but said he felt confident in his ability to get the job done.
Both Bjorneby’s say they’ll continue to say yes to Make-a-Wish in the years ahead.
“I’ll do another one and another one and another one,” Bob Bjorneby said with a smile.
“We’ll never say no to Make-a-Wish. The things they do are great,” Linda Bjorneby adds. “Make-a-Wish has our hearts.”