Purchase of a T-shirt ends up the winning entry in a drawing for the 2021 car.
Tom Hedge Jr. wouldn’t say he’s a car guy.
The Sarasota Realtor has been perfectly content driving a minivan to drop off and pick up his two children at school every day. No big deal.
He had plans to spring for a new set of wheels soon but no real idea on what or when.
His son Alexander, on the other hand, is more locked into modern trends. The 9-year-old, who attends Sarasota Christian School, is an avid fan of YouTube and its culture. Tom said he often hears his son watching YouTubers and video game streams.
One of Alexander’s favorite YouTubers is MrBeast — real name Jimmy Donaldson — who records wacky challenges and presents them to his 70 million subscribers. Among them is a challenge allowing people to keep as many $1 bills as they can carry. He’s also known for making massive charitable contributions.
As a dad, Tom tried to explain to his son that the gifts often came with the longest of odds. But there was nothing wrong with enjoying the videos.
In this case, though, Tom was happy to have been proven wrong.
Alexander, along with more than 35,000 other viewers, recently purchased a limited-time T-shirt from the MrBeast account. But what the Hedges didn’t know was that the purchase entered them into a giveaway for a Tesla.
Of those 35,000, Alexander Hedge’s name was chosen. He and his father are now the owners of the all-electric 2021 Model 3. The car retails between $40,000 and $56,000.
“Alexander was telling friends he was getting a Tesla, and some are saying ‘No you aren’t,” Tom said. “When we picked him up (in the new Tesla), there were kids screaming about it, and Alex walks out with this big smile on his face.”
“Everyone really likes the car,” Alexander said.
The whole point of buying the shirt was to become an “executive producer” on one of MrBeast’s videos. When Alexander entered his name and saw it appear in the credits of a later video, he and his father took a picture of the listing and considered it a job well done.
It was only a couple days later while eating at a Culver’s that they were told by friends they’d actually won a car at the end of the video.
They pulled the video back up while waiting on their food, and lo and behold, Alexander’s name had been chosen at random by the MrBeast crew.
They remember a powerful feeling of excitement while remaining wary of a prize not yet in their possession.
“(Alexander) had the biggest smile on his face but was gauging my reaction like, ‘Is this serious?’” Tom said. “We weren’t sure what to think. Something like this doesn’t happen.”
“You know how sometimes you feel you’re going to get something, but then you don’t get it?” Alexander said. “That’s how it felt.”
Tom quickly connected with some of MrBeast’s people and learned it was a legit operation. He had entered the contest in his son’s name but signed for both him and his son for ownership at the DMV.
The next thing to do, naturally, was to call his accountant to see if getting a new car in this way was financially doable — he remembers growing up watching people who won lavish prizes on “The Price is Right” but couldn’t afford the income taxes. He and his accountant concluded it would be feasible and decided to see what the effects would be when tax season rolls around.
“I was chatting with (a representative sending the car), and she joked how happy she was that I wasn’t a 16-year-old who didn’t know about tax implications,” Tom said.
The car arrived in early September, and the Hedges have spent the past few weeks getting used to their new electric ride. They mostly use it for the same purposes — back and forth to school and sports practice or the odd trip to work or downtown.
Alexander said he most enjoys the car’s custom horn sounds, one of which resembles, well, let’s just say kids enjoy bathroom sounds — a lot.
Tom enjoys the futuristic features.
Alexander’s trips to school are different now. They’ve noticed kids point to the car.
“I’m really popular now,” he said.
Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.