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Hitting close to home for the CEO and founder of TradeTec Skyline was the tornado that sliced through Washington, Ill., on Nov. 17. From the road, Ken Buckman started raising money and supplies to help those affected, never foreseeing how quickly his initiative would grow.


“I was planning to put up bank account information until someone mentioned GoFundMe,” explained Buckman.

At first, Buckman and his wife, Heide, set up a Facebook page to raise money to help tornado victims, but after they started using GoFundMe as their main donation site, the impact was instantaneous.

“It went live at 11:07 p.m. after Sunday night football. Twenty-two hours and 17 minutes later, it reached $10,000. Donations were coming not just from Chicagoland, but from Skylines across the country, customers, friends and family,” said Buckman. “Several competitors and colleagues got on the Facebook page and donated substantially. As a 25-year industry guy myself, our community responded so quickly and without question. In 55 hours, we were at $23,000!”

As the CEO and founder of TradeTec Skyline, Buckman oversees the global exhibit, event and environment studio.

Ken Buckman and family uploading supplies in Washington, Ill.

Ken Buckman and family unloading supplies in Washington, Ill.

On Nov. 17, Buckman had gathered with other Skyline owners in Nashville when several tornadoes of various strengths on the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale caused destruction in parts of Illinois and Indiana. Bearing the brunt of the second most damaging tornado, an EF4, was Washington – a town of 16,000 people and only two hours from Buckman’s hometown of Elgin, Ill.

When looking at coverage of the storm, a Facebook image of a completely destroyed house caught his attention. Buckman later discovered the house belonged to Washington resident, Brenda Fraley-Warren. She is the sister of Dawn Fraley-Miller, a high school friend Buckman hadn’t seen in 20 years.

After exchanging a series of messages with Fraley-Miller, his thoughts centered on what he could do to help.

“He’s always thinking outside the box,” said Russ Fitzpatrick, sales rental, Angles on Design Inc.

While traveling, Buckman phoned his wife to get her involved in his plans. The couple along with Fraley-Miller set up Facebook pages and GoFundMe sites. For Buckman, the original plan was to stop fundraising and shutdown the site after reaching the first goal of $10,000. SSPR, a Chicago-based public relations firm that works with GoFundMe, encouraged Buckman and his wife to keep going and offered to help.

“They said they had never seen anything magnify so fast nor the amount of people following,” said Buckman.

The Washington city clerk is given the more than $25,000 in gift cards from Ken Buckman and his family.

The Washington city clerk is given the more than $25,000 in gift cards from Ken Buckman and his family.

By Nov. 21, Buckman and his wife’s GoFundMe had reached more than $25,000, and the one created by Fraley-Miller for her sister’s family had met its $10,000 goal.

“I haven’t slept in 48 hours,” said Buckman.

His activities over the last few days explain why. On Nov. 20, he drove to pick up first-responder supplies donated by Sage Products, a health care manufacturing company. He and his wife filled their garage to the brim with supplies donated by others in their community.

The couple’s 11-year-old triplet daughters hosted a fundraiser at their local PetSmart. Buckman and his wife also mass-emailed Washington officials to help them distribute the supplies and money they raised. They also had the more than $25,000 placed on Walmart gift cards.

“We have 1,000 Walmart gift cards to equal the 1,000 homes destroyed in Washington,” said Buckman.

Using a TradeTec Skyline 22-foot truck, Buckman and his family drove from Elgin to Washington on Nov. 21 to deliver the money and supplies to city officials.

A destroyed home in Washington, Ill.

A destroyed home in Washington, Ill.

“I had hundreds that wanted to go and help. They shut down the city; you can’t go there because it causes more harm than help. So, we’re going to offload and let the professionals handle everything,” Buckman explained. “We have the [Washington] treasurer meeting us at a rally point. The city will tell everyone about the availability of the gift cards and supplies.”

Thousands of people tracked the Buckman family’s donation site, according to Buckman. He said he hopes these same people, and perhaps more, come to Washington and help with the cleanup effort once the city reopens.


His wife left this message on their GoFundMe, “OUR EFFORTS ARE NOT OVER.”

To donate to the GoFundMe created by the Buckman family, visit http://www.gofundme.com/5c4p5s.

To donate to the GoFundMe created by Dawn Fraley-Miller, visit http://www.gofundme.com/5c4evg.

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