In Michigan, convertible season is generally confined to about four months out of the year. Not so for Laurens de Jong, who doesn’t let a little rain, sleet or even snow affect his love of top-down driving. De Jong drives his convertible with the top down all year long and has been doing so for more than a decade. Nowadays most people know him as the “convertible guy,” the “drop top man” and just “that guy.” But why, you ask? It all started from very simple reason: because he enjoys it. This year however, de Jong decided to use his reputation to bring awareness to The Heat and Warmth Fund, a Detroit-based nonprofit that provides energy assistance to elderly, unemployed, underemployed and disabled individuals. He started a Freeze for THAW Facebook page and made decals for his car. He says partnering with THAW was an obvious choice. “I’m cold so others don’t have to be,” says de Jong. He says he admires how THAW helps people manage their heating costs in the long-term by using funds to make homes more energy efficient. “THAW reaches about 9,000 households annually and my belief is that if I reach even one household through donations I helped bring in, my job is done.” When he’s not cruising in the open air, de Jong works as a supervisor in Enterprise Information Technology at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. He’s been with the company since he first pulled up his convertible (with the top down) in 2004. “BCBSM is a great company to stand in front of when doing what I do because the company encourages diversity and also wants to help Michigan.” He adds that both BCBSM and THAW represent a “long-term commitment to Michigan’s wellness.” As you can expect, de Jong says he gets more than a few funny looks on the road. In fact, he says sightings of him often appear on social media and elicit both positive and negative responses – about 50/50 he says. “I am often struck by someone who I’ve maybe spoken to once in my life, and who will type in a couple of paragraphs on the merits of my driving with the top down,” said de Jong. “As divergent as the public’s response has been to my appearance, the support I have from friends and coworkers is overwhelming and positive." Next time you see “the convertible guy” on the road, give him a wave and consider showing your support by making a donation to THAW. You can donate by calling 800-866-THAW or online at www.thawfund.org. Be sure to follow de Jong’s adventures on his Freeze for THAW Facebook page.
Photo credit: Laurens de Jong (driver), MI Blues Perspectives (convertible)