WORDS: Amy Bell
PICTURES: Whitney Patton
Dan and Betty Callaghan may be retired from their business, but they have no plans to retire from philanthropy. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Callaghan Tire has been a mainstay in the Bradenton area for more than four decades.
Dan and Betty, both Chicago area natives, moved to Florida from Iowa in the late 70s when their daughters were teenagers. On February 1, 1978, the couple started Callaghan Tire in Venice. Six months later, they moved the business to the Bradenton area to be closer to the Tampa Bay trucking hub.
The Callaghans launched their Bradenton tire business with a hope, a dream, a $20,000 investment (half of which was borrowed), and six employees. By the time Dan stepped down from his CEO position in 2018, Callaghan Tire had grown into a nearly $50 million per year company. With more than 170 employees, two Bandag retread plants and service centers in Bradenton, Clearwater, Jacksonville, Fort Myers, Lakeland, Naples, Miami, Ocala, and West Palm Beach. Dan officially retired on Callaghan Tire’s 40th anniversary, just a few years after Betty.
Two of Dan and Betty’s sons-in-law and one of their daughters remain active in the highly successful business, and Dan is still a Chairman of the Board of Directors. Even though they are no longer involved with the day-to-day business, the Callaghans are committed to paying their success forward.
“We think of charity as a way for giving back for the good life we have enjoyed in Manatee County,” Betty says. “We’re going to continue to give back in any way we can.”
For the Callaghans, philanthropy is a long-standing tradition—and cancer research has always been their primary focus. “We have had many family members and friends affected by this disease,” says Dan. “Both of our fathers, my father, and Betty’s father, passed away from lung cancer.”
When Betty’s sister, Margie Semonick, was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2005, they decided to take action. “When we first found out my sister had breast cancer, my husband and I said, ‘What can we do?’” Betty recalls. “We felt so helpless, just standing by and watching. So that’s when we decided to do something—we started the tournament.”
In 2006, they founded the Callaghan Tire Charity ProAm Golf Tournament to raise money for cancer research. For the next 14 years, the Callaghans continued to host the annual charity golf tournament, raising a total of $1.1 million. Most of the funds were donated to Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. “We are very proud of our relationship with Moffitt, as it is one of the top cancer centers in the country,” says Betty.
When the Callaghans first started the tournament, little did they know just how cancer would continue to impact their family. In 2007, the disease struck again when their youngest daughter, Jane Trinci, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her prognosis was bleak, but after more than a year of surgery, chemo, and radiation, Jane defied the odds.
In 2008, Dan and Betty’s third daughter, Patty Virgilio, was also diagnosed with breast cancer. Patty underwent a mastectomy and was declared cancer-free. Then in 2012, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. For the next seven years, Patty fought pancreatic and thyroid cancer, ultimately losing her battle in June 2019.
Later that year, Betty herself was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy in February 2020. “Cancer continues to plague our family,” says Betty. “That’s why it’s been our honor to host this event for the past 14 years.”
With each passing year, The Callaghan Tire Charity ProAm gained popularity. Last year, the three-day golf event was held November 2-4 at the Bradenton Country Club. During the fun-filled event, up to 120 amateur golfers had an opportunity to play alongside pro golfers and make memories to last a lifetime. Some of the pros that participated in the 2019 tournament included big names like Tony Jacklin (Hall of Fame), Hollis Stacey (Hall of Fame), Andy Bean, Bobby Cole, Jim Dent, and Alan Doyle, just to name a few.
“The tournament got bigger and better every year,” says Betty. “It was something we enjoyed doing, and it was a huge undertaking. Every year, about April or May, we would start and work on it right up until November.”
“Over the years, I’ve met a lot of professional golfers who participated in the tournament,” adds Dan. “We made very close friends with a lot of them. People would come from all over the country to participate.”
“Yes, and if they came, they thought it was a really nice tournament, and they’d return each year,” Betty says. In addition to drawing participants from across the nation, the tournament also attracted players from across the pond.
“Over the years during our travels, we were lucky enough to get to a couple of golf tournaments in Europe, and we met a bunch of guys who are golf nuts,” Betty recalls. “One fellow that we became very good friends with brought over sometimes 10 to 12 guys to the tournament. Another friend of ours came over every year from Scotland. So, it was more far-reaching than we had ever dreamed of.”
Sadly, in light of the COVID pandemic and other circumstances, Dan and Betty recently decided the 2019 tournament would be their last. In a letter to participating golfers, donors, and fans, the Callaghans wrote, “Considering the serious condition of the world, and the fact that time is marching on for the two of us, it is with heavy hearts that we are announcing it is time to say goodbye to the Callaghan Tire Charity ProAm Golf Tournament… Although the purpose of the tournament had a serious nature, we will fondly remember the friends made and the good times had with all of you. We hope you will continue to support your favorite charities. These are trying times, stay safe, and God bless all.”
While the golf tournament has been their focus for the last 14 years, the Callaghan’s generosity extends far beyond cancer research. In fact, Dan was one of the founding members of the Manatee 100 Club, a nonprofit that supports families of fallen Manatee County police. For the past eight years or so, Callaghan Tire has also been a major sponsor of the Bradenton Blues Festival. The annual festival is produced by Realize Bradenton, a nonprofit organization that promotes redevelopment and economic growth in downtown Bradenton.
“Our daughter is on the board of Parenting Matters, and whenever they have any fundraiser, we help out with them,” adds Betty. “Other than that, we try to support anybody who asks for a donation. We do as much as we can.”
The Callaghans feel they owe it to the Bradenton community. “After coming to Bradenton in ‘78 to start the business, it grew slowly but steadily, and we ended up having a fairly decent-sized business,” Betty reflects. “Manatee County was very supportive, and all of our banks, attorneys, realtors, investors, they’re all in Manatee County. So, we just believe in giving back locally.”
Now retired, the Callaghans have plenty of free time to get out and enjoy the local community. “We never dreamed we’d be lucky enough to live in Manatee County, Florida, make a living here and retire here,” remarks Betty. “We live in the center of everything near Bradenton Country Club, and everything is so convenient. We’re happy where we are, and we love the weather and all the friendships we’ve made.”
Dan and Betty both play golf multiple times a week and spend a lot of time with their growing family—which currently includes 10 grandkids and two great-grandchildren with a third on the way. “Family is very important to us,” says Betty. “There’s always a family celebration. We try to celebrate every birthday, every anniversary, everything. With COVID, it’s been a challenge, but we have a lot of deck parties at our house where we can social distance.”
Of course, the Callaghans continue to pay it forward. “We’re going to continue to do what we can,” says Betty. “Nothing as large scale as the tournament, but we’ll definitely give back any way we can as we continue to enjoy our growing family.”