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Auto body shop helping people find their drive in life

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MACHESNEY PARK (WREX) — On most days, Todd Ehrhardt can be seen working on his car.

However, it's not your typical ride

In fact, the Dodge Durango does anything but blend in.

The 'darkside' car has a very strong Star Wars influence.

Storm Trooper spelled across the windshield, painted under the hood and sitting inside on the dash.

While Ehrhardt is most certainly a fan of the massive movie series, there are more details in the car's detailing.

Tally marks signifying the 'battles' he has been through and slashes to show the scars he's sustained through them.

"The deeper meaning of Star Wars is really the hero's journey. For me to want to create a Star Wars vehicle was a natural decision," Ehrhardt said.

"The dark side lives in your heart because it comes from immense pain."

Ehrhardt has run across the spectrum of pain in the last year.

Once a Brazilian Jujitsu fighter.

Now unable to walk on his own.

Ehrhardt's mobility has slowly deteriorated over the last year to where he needs the aid of crutches or a scooter to get around.

His pain isn't exclusive to physical though.

There have been significant emotional hurdles to work over with some difficult health journeys for the people closest to him.

"It's actually almost been a year to date that my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer again. That was her second time fighting breast cancer. At the same time, my mother-in-law was fighting her battles with ALS," Ehrhardt said.

Ehrhardt's mother-in-law ultimately lost her battle.

All of the physical and emotional strife left him needing a way to express himself.

He landed on the idea of detailing his car in a way that shows how he feels and can also help put a smile on the faces of others.

That's where Midcoast Customs comes into play.

Ehrhardt connected with the team at the Machesney Park auto body shop and eventually went to them with his darkside idea.

Then, something happened that brought a grown man to tears.

"When I sent him the mockup of what I wanted for my truck I said 'man, I have to save for this.' He was like no you don't just bring your truck in. I want to gift this to you,'" Ehrhardt said.

Full coverage for zero charge.

The motivation for Midcoast was simply to help a friend get through a rough chapter in his life.

"It was kind of a pay it forward deal. We got to know him and established a friendship right off the bat," Midcoast Customs shop manager Kyle Wiesneth said.

"We're lucky to be in a position to where we can actually turn around and give something back to people."

Midcoast didn't stop with Todd when it came to making wishes come true.

They paid the same kindness to Joe Keck, a Army veteran who reached out wanting work done on his truck.

Keck has gone through his own battles as well, losing his arm while fighting in Afghanistan.

"I was a gunner in a humvee. Driver lost control and rolled the humvee over on me," Keck said.

It feels like deja vu.

Another connection made and another act of charity in the works.

It was something Keck never expected and can only describe as "amazing."

"When they told me on the phone I got goosebumps and had to take a seat. It's amazing to see a company come out and do that for a veteran or anybody," Keck said.

In a world that has seen so much change in just a few months ago, Midcoast wants to remind everyone that we are a community and should do what we can to help each other.

"There's so much stuff going on in the world right now. It's nice to be able to have a feel good moment, give that to somebody else," Wiesneth said.

It may seem like just touching up a car but for Ehrhardt and Keck, it runs much deeper than just a nice gesture.

"After you've been so humbled by life and then you have somebody say 'Here, I want to do this for you,' especially at the moment that they did it. That's power. That's real power right there," Ehrhardt said.

"I expressed my job and was driven to create it and I have some beautiful people that helped me do that."

Midcoast Customs is located at 8022 N 2nd St in Machesney Park.

We always need your help to find people, businesses and organizations trying to make our lives better.

If you know anyone who is working to improve the stateline through civility, you can fill out a nomination form here or you can reach out directly to eleake@wrex.com.

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Evan Leake

Evan Leake anchors for 13 News Today and 13 News at Noon. Evan grew up in Darien, Illinois, a south-west suburb of Chicago. He came to WREX in 2017 and worked his way to the anchor desk in May of 2019. He coordinates both the Teacher of the Week and Inspiring 815 series for 13 News. You can connect with Evan at eleake@wrex.com or Evan Leake on Facebook.

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