Samantha Bosco admits she sometimes goes outside her home in Upland, California, just to confirm that a 2021 Toyota RAV4 really is still parked in the driveway.
“It feels like a dream,” says the two-time Paralympic bronze medalist. “There’s no way I could personally afford a car like that. It’s been a huge godsend to have a reliable source of transportation that I can feel safe and secure in.”
Bosco can thank John Elway’s Crown Toyota for that peace of mind. The Ontario, California, dealership is picking up the tab for the payments on a two-year lease on the RAV4 as well as all its maintenance work. That’s allowed Bosco to park her older vehicle that, as she puts it, “is currently on its last legs.”
It’s a connection whose origins date back to 2018, when General Manager Paxton Gagnet and Community Relations Director Shelley Gagnet had the chance to attend the Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
“That’s all it took for us to get hooked,” says Shelley Gagnet. “Toyota’s partnerships with the Olympics and Paralympics definitely got our attention, especially with the Games coming to Los Angeles in 2028. But once we experienced it for ourselves, we thought, ‘What a great cause to get behind.’”
Gagnet reached out to Soojie Kuroda, engagement marketing field manager in the Los Angeles Region, who provided a list of Paralympic athletes based within Crown Toyota’s primary marketing area. Bosco’s name was at the top of that list and, as Gagnet says, “she was practically in our backyard.” The more Gagnet learned the more she wanted to help.
Bosco was born with a congenital abnormality that left one leg 2.5 inches shorter than the other. At the age of 4, Bosco had leg lengthening surgery to compensate. A follow-up surgery seven years later didn’t go as planned — leaving her with limited motion in her knee and ankle, nerve damage from the knee down, muscle impairment and a right leg that is an inch shorter than the left.
Still, Bosco’s passion for cycling — kindled at an early age — continued to burn just as bright. After two years of competing against able-bodied athletes, a friend suggested in 2013 that she try para-cycling. That same year she made the U.S. team and competed in the World Cup in Spain. Then, in 2016, she rose to prominence at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, winning one medal each on the track and on the road.
Bosco, like many other Team USA athletes, was on pace to be in peak condition for the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 when the pandemic took hold. Suddenly, she had to find a way to continue her training for another year in hopes that she could compete in 2021.
“It’s not easy to train and make a living,” Bosco says. “I work for my mom, I help my husband with his business, I’m a freelance graphic designer and I work with Angel City Sports, which provides sports opportunities for kids, adults and veterans with physical disabilities or visual impairments. I also really like to volunteer, especially with One Revolution, Ready Set Gold! and Classroom Champions where I get to go into schools and teach kids about perseverance and to always be strong and work toward the betterment of themselves. I like paying it forward like that. But it’s a constant juggling act.”
That’s where the support of sponsors like Crown Toyota can really make a difference. In addition to the RAV4, the dealership has also donated half of its annual $10,000 in Toyota dealer matching funds to Team USA to help Bosco and other aspiring athletes like her.
Gagnet, though, believes the moral support can be just as important.
“Samantha has gained a lot more new followers from our employees, I can tell you that,” she says. “When it’s safe, we want to organize a meet-and-greet event with her at the dealership for our employees and customers. And hopefully, when the competitions resume, we can go and cheer her on. She is such a great gal. We are very proud that she’s part of our team.”
Want to learn how you can help, too? Like John Elway’s Crown Toyota, contacting your Region’s Olympic/Paralympic Champion is a great place to start.