A parade of cars cruised through the streets of Woodinville to deliver a gift to Anthony Schmidt, a local kid with a talent for miniature car photography.
The 12-year-old uses cars and photography to overcome his daily challenges with autism. All Anthony needs is an iPhone camera and a car from his extensive collection of options, which grows by the week due to donations from community members and fans.
He was not expecting to be gifted a real 1957 Ford Custom 300 from Greg Wilkinson, owner of Miracle Carpets. Rich McKee, another strong advocate of Anthony’s photography, coordinated the parade and car show.
“The car show was way more than we ever expected,” Anthony said. “We were completely surprised and blown away. It’s like something out of a fairytale, no other way to describe the feeling.”
Wilkinson and McKee both learned about Anthony’s photography through social media. Wilkinson said the story touched his heart and he wanted to make a difference in the boy’s life by donating the car.
After seeing his artwork posted on Facebook, McKee said he was impressed to see a 12-year-old boy with such a talent for photography, especially with the added challenges of being on the spectrum. The local real estate broker added that he also has a son on the autism spectrum.
When McKee heard about Wilkinson’s car donation, he volunteered to set up the event. He also planned a behind-the-scenes surprise restoration of the vehicle, which included various auto shops and volunteers from the community.
McKee said he told the boy’s mother, Ramona Schmidt, that he was going to take the Ford to get “a small tune-up and car wash” a few weeks before the parade. “Small tune-up” was an understatement.
Members of the Woodinville Car Club coordinated with various shops to renovate the car. He said employees from NAPA Auto Parts pooled their money and bought parts for a complete tune-up of the car. APC Auto Spa also brought the car back to life with a paint restoration.
On the day of the parade, car owners from across the region met at the Woodinville Sports Fields parking lot, while Anthony waited in anticipation at Leota Middle School. The vehicles cruised through town and slowly piled into the school parking lot in style. Others even joined along the way out of interest.
After a small pause, the newly renovated car appeared down the street and rolled right up to the boy. McKee hopped out and handed Anthony the keys to his first real car.
“It was a phenomenal event and speaks huge volumes to the Woodinville community,” McKee said.
Anthony said he named his new car after Wilkinson’s service dog, Betty, who also came to the event.
“So grateful to everyone, nothing like this has ever happened to us,” Schmidt said. “No words can express our gratitude. Tears welled up a few times, especially when we first saw the line of cars coming.”
Schmidt said her father worked at a Ford manufacturing plant for 30 years and always dreamt of restoring a car from the 1950s. He passed away before that happened, but Anthony will get to carry on the legacy.
Anthony’s photography typically focuses on making small cars look actual size. What does he have in store for actual-sized cars?