Public Affairs

AAA highlights 7 stories of everyday superheroes

You don’t need superpowers to be a superhero. 

Real-life superheroes go above and beyond what’s merely required, stepping in when they see a chance to do good. We look at some AAA superheroes and the feats they’ve accomplished in recent years.

Quick thinking on Mitchell's part helped keep a crash from turning into a multi-car pileup

Quick thinking on Mitchell's part helped keep a crash from turning into a multicar pileup

The winter of 2019 was tough for many, and on February 28, ice created chaos on Interstate 270 in St. Louis. A AAA member lost control on the icy road and hit a guard rail. Luckily, she was unhurt and called AAA Roadside Assistance, waiting in her disabled vehicle. Roadside Assistance technician Torrey Mitchell responded. As he began assisting the member, another vehicle lost control on the ice and rear-ended her.

After the second collision, Mitchell quickly checked on both parties, then signaled to approaching drivers that an accident had occurred. Drivers avoided the area, and Mitchell took control of the scene until authorities arrived. Had Mitchell not been there, more crashes might have occurred.

Mitchell has performed thousands of calls for AAA, but this one was by far the scariest for him. On March 1, his service was acknowledged by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The front page featured a photo of him towing a Cadillac, along with a brief paragraph describing the incident. Mitchell's efforts that afternoon made him a local hero. Mitchell said, "I am not a hero, just a person who helped people when he had the chance."

A stray kitten found a home with a family on their way to Disneyland thanks to Downum’s efforts

A stray kitten found a home with a family on their way to Disneyland thanks to Downum’s efforts

Roadside Assistance technician Roger Downum of Hilltop Club Service, Inc. in Bakersfield, California, says he once answered an unusual call for AAA Roadside Assistance. “A family was heading to Disneyland for their 5-year-old daughter’s birthday,” he says. “When I arrived, I asked what the trouble was with the vehicle and they said, ‘Nothing at all.’ The car was fine, only there was a kitten wedged between the exhaust pipes.” The family had heard the kitten crying when they warmed up the car, so they had turned it off and called AAA.

After lifting the family’s car with his tow truck, Downum was able to find the kitten and extract it from the warm exhaust pipes. “He was a little scared but otherwise he was fine,” Downum says. “I asked the members if I could keep the kitten, but the 5-year-old daughter said she wanted him. She asked my name, I said ‘Roger,’ and she thanked me for saving the kitten and said she was going to name him after me. Not only did I get them on the way to the greatest place on Earth, but the happiness I saw in the kids’ eyes was the greatest.”

Scalf towed a stranded couple’s camper more than 250 miles to save their NASCAR trip

Scalf towed a stranded couple’s camper more than 250 miles to save their NASCAR trip

Ted Scalf of Ted’s Towing in Portsmouth, Ohio, recounts a call he answered in May of 2017. “We had a member and his wife's truck break down in Charleston, West Virginia, pulling a 5th-wheel camper to a NASCAR race in Charlotte, North Carolina,” he says. The couple had already had AAA tow their truck to a garage, where the mechanics said they’d need to order parts and that the truck couldn’t be fixed until 2 days later.

The couple, along with AAA dispatchers, called several garages and asked for help towing their camper the more than 250 miles to Charlotte. “They were stranded in a Lowe's parking lot. No one could or would tow their 5th wheel that far,” Scalf says. “The couple’s plan to get to the races had been shot until Ted’s Towing came to help." Scalf and his wife came and towed the camper to the race. AAA covered the first 95 miles, after which the couple paid a discounted rate for the remaining distance.

"The members were so thrilled and happy to get to their destination," Scalf says of his decision to help. "These people needed help and were stranded. That’s why we started this business: to help people who needed us.” 

Turner helped bring together families in need of a car and auto shops who wanted to assist them

Turner helped bring together families in need of a car and auto shops who wanted to assist them

In 2009, the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Marie Turner was approached by Ben Clymer’s The Body Shop, an auto collision repair shop in Riverside, California. At the time, Turner was with the Auto Club’s Immediate Repair Program, which works with Member Preferred body shops that handle AAA members’ total losses. The Auto Club takes possession of total-loss, salvage-title vehicles after paying out claims to Auto Club-insured drivers. Ben Clymer’s wanted to help the community by repairing one of those wrecked cars to give to a family in need, Turner says. “The Auto Club would donate the car, Ben Clymer’s would fix the car, and they would work with Community Connect to choose a recipient of the car.”

Turner liked the idea, so the next time she saw her manager at a monthly meeting, she asked if the Auto Club could donate a totaled vehicle. “He said, ‘No, the Auto Club doesn’t do that.’ The next month at the end of the meeting, he said, ‘Any questions?’ And I said, ‘Yes, can we get a car?’ He said no.” Undeterred, Turner asked a third time at the next month’s meeting, and her manager finally gave permission to pick out a salvage title vehicle from an Auto Club holding yard in Carson.

“That’s what started the whole thing and it just kind of snowballed,” Turner says. She estimates that since she got the Auto Club involved in 2009, it has donated at least 60 vehicles to Ben Clymer’s and other shops to be fixed and donated. Recipients of the cars are chosen from among a pool of applicants that can number into the thousands, she says, each explaining how a new car would help change their lives for the better.

Most recently, in October 2019, Ben Clymer’s and the Auto Club worked together to donate a 2016 Honda CR-V with a year of auto insurance and a trunk full of groceries. The recipients, a family in Riverside, have a 2-year-old child with cystic fibrosis who has regular doctor appointments in Los Angeles. Getting to those appointments had become especially difficult because their previous vehicle had broken down repeatedly and needed expensive repairs. “It’s such a rewarding feeling when you see these families given a car, knowing that it’s really going to change their lives,” Turner says.

Newson-Anderson made sure a lost woman made her way safely home

Newson-Anderson made sure a lost woman made her way safely home

Trisha Newson-Anderson showed her true character when she helped an elderly woman get home after she got lost near the Brentwood branch in Missouri. Newson-Anderson noticed the woman and contacted the police. The police provided directions, and Newson-Anderson decided to take the lead and make sure the woman made it home safely. After they reached her home, the woman wanted to pay Newson-Anderson for going out of her way. Newson-Anderson replied, “All I want is a big hug.” The next day, Newson-Anderson received flowers from the woman for her act of kindness.

3 AAA home insurance claims team members provided legendary service during a difficult time

3 AAA home insurance claims team members provided legendary service during a difficult time

A AAA member wrote the following letter about his claims experience after the 2018 Woolsey Fire in Southern California:

“I wanted to take this opportunity, to make you aware of the exemplary work of several Exchange Claims employees. On the evening of November 8, 2018, our lives were forever changed when the Woolsey Fire destroyed the home that my wife and I had lived in for 25 years. Fortunately, we were able to safely flee with our 2 cats, 15 minutes before flames engulfed our house.

“From the beginning of the claims process, we were met with empathy and compassion. We were in a state of shock, totally numb, and ignorant regarding how to begin to put our lives back together. Exchange employees Travis Stewart of the CAT team and his manager Joe Wagdy calmed us down and explained the claims process to us. They did this with professionalism, grace, and an appropriate dose of humor, which we desperately needed. Our claim was then assigned to Brian Siu. He has been the very essence of legendary service. The Auto Club is very fortunate to have people such as these gentlemen on the front line.

“During the past 6 months, we have heard numerous accounts of how other people's insurance carriers abandoned them in their hour of greatest need. Not so with us. When people ask us about our experiences with our insurance company, we are proud to say we have no such problems because we are insured with the best. Thank you, Auto Club.”

Mitchell’s late-night mechanical work helped a member attend their daughter’s college graduation

Mitchell’s late-night mechanical work helped a member attend their daughter’s college graduation

“I picked up a customer at a service station who was traveling across 2 states to their daughter’s graduation the next morning,” says Sam Mitchell of Jim Smith Wrecker Service in Conway, Arkansas. “Their SUV had broken down and they couldn’t figure out the issue. It was late at night, so we took them to a hotel and took the SUV to our repair shop.”

“We stayed at the shop even though it was late and were able to fix it that night,” he says. “We test drove it a second time early the next morning and called the member. They picked it up and made it to their daughter’s graduation on time. Apparently, she was the first person in their family to graduate college.” 

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