employee Mario Vani climbs out of the cool water and positions himself precariously atop the dunk tank seat late Friday morning, waiting for the next generous donor to toss a ball at the metal arm that would send him plunging back in.
Instead, the young son of a fellow Meritor employee strolls up and casually pushes the button, sending Vani back into the water with a splash.
But it's all for a good cause, and Vani doesn't mind.
"We love raising money for charity in our group," he said, wiping water from his eyes as he prepared to climb back onto the ledge.
Nearby in the Meritor parking lot, singer John Parr – known for his songs "St. Elmo's Fire," "Naughty Naughty," and "Restless Heart" – serenades Meritor employees and family members over lunch during the company's "Military Might" charity day.
Proceeds from the day will benefit USA Cares – a charity that supports returning veterans and military families in need.
"Whether it's utilities, rent, groceries – those who struggle, that's who USA Cares supports," said Tim Burns, vice president and general manager, Defense & Specialty, Industrial, for Meritor. "It's a very worthwile cause."
Burns added that, since Meritor is a company that builds military products, he feels they have a strong tie to the military. In fact, he added, 75 military veterans are currently employed by Meritor in Troy.
"We here at Meritor consider members of the military heroes," Burns said.
The company-wide fundraisers began as a weekly "casual Friday," where employees could pay $5 to dress down on the last day of the work week. Since then, internal rivalries between departments and plain old generosity have turned the small event into a large-scale fundraising operation that has raised more than $52,000 for 20 charities so far this year.
Burns said they won't know until later how much today's fundraiser – headed up this week by the Defense department – will raise for USA Cares, but he said they hope to top the $7,600 the Defense department in May.
"We used the lessons from previous fundraisers and applied them here," said Dave Damian, director of sales and business development for Meritor's Defense department.
Since January, Meritor employees have raised an average of $2,500-$3,000 per week for a different area charity, including Leader Dogs for the Blind and the Michigan Special Olympics. More than 20 charities have received more than $52,000 from Meritor employees this year alone.
To donate to USA Cares, visit usacares.org.