DETROIT - Friday afternoon, the assembly line at General Motor's Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center shut down, and crews began setting up for a party with a purpose.
On Saturday, the assembly plant will host the Karmanos Cancer Institute's 31st Annual Dinner. It's an unusual place to have a party, and just the latest example of GM's extraordinary commitment to fighting cancer.
Dwight Gentz is a senior manufacturing engineer who has 44 years with General Motors. Gentz is also a leukemia survivor.
"I'm the luckiest guy in the world, as far as I'm concerned," said Gentz. "My second 'birth date' is June 10th of 2011. It happens to be the same birth date as one of my grandsons."
That's the day Gentz received a lifesaving stem cell transplant from his youngest sister Rita.
"It turns out she was a 100 percent match," said Gentz.
It's success stories like his that help drive General Motor's commitment to fighting cancer.
"This is the second year we've been able to provide a $400,000 donation to Karmanos," said Lori Wingerter, vice president of the GM Foundation. "All of us are impacted by cancer whether it's our coworkers, our family, or our friends. And at the foundation, we think it's very important to give back to our communities."
Over the past 16 years, the General Motor's Foundation has provided over $7.4 million to the Karmanos Cancer Institute to fund cancer care and research.
It's a commitment that extends all down the line, according to Doneen McDowell, the plant manager at the GM Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center.
"We want their health to be their primary focus. So we want to accommodate them and make sure they get the proper treatment and the proper support. And knowing that their job is going to be there once they get through it," said McDowell.
"We're a family every day. And we pull together even more when people are ill," said UAW shop chairman Don LaForest. "It makes people feel good to help others. It's the right thing to do."
Gentz has been able to go back to work, back to his hobbies, including downhill ski racing and classic cars, and back to enjoying his eight grandchildren.
"I can't tell you how grateful I am for the opportunity to watch the little ones continue to grow and partake in life and the things I enjoy doing," said Gentz. "Eternally grateful. You just can't help but be that way."
To visit the Karmanos Cancer Institute website, click here.
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