June 17, 2021

Big Fish, Big Names, Big Money, and Big Heart

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Thermo King District Service Manager Gary Thompson is a professional bass fisherman who raises money in big ways.

We talk a lot about purpose here at Thermo King. For District 9 Service Manager Gary Thompson, purpose is about using talent and connections to give back to others – and he’s doing it in a big way.

A professional bass fisherman, Gary uses his expertise in finding big fish to raise money for charities – $1.3 million over the past 7 years to be exact.

While Gary is winding down on the number of professional bass fishing tournaments (3-4 annually), he is hoping to keep the charity work going with support of his sponsors and the many connections he has made through the years. This includes 3 events for the Coyotes, 2 for Junior Achievement, 3 for Alice Cooper, and another 5 or so fishing trips for professional hockey players and their kids – all proceeds go to charities.

“It really is very fulfilling, plus I get to simultaneously do a sport I love while inspiring others to enjoy the outdoors and fishing,” said Gary, who was introduced to fishing at the age of 9 by a neighbor. “This is a sport anyone can enjoy, and I am fortunate to share the fun with others AND make a difference at the same time.”

And in case you are wondering, Gary does go out fishing just for fun when he gets the chance. He loves bringing his wife, three grown daughters and his grandchildren when they are able. His oldest grandson is already asking when he can start fishing pro so he can be like grandpa. Sounds like Gary is making an impression both near and far.

“We are proud to have him on the Thermo King team where uplifting each other and our communities are a key part of our purpose,” said Steve Bach, Thermo King Western Region director.

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Partnering with the Arizona Coyotes, Gary has supported the Coyote Alumni Association’s Charity Golf Tournament auctioning off a Pro-Bass Fishing trip each year that has benefited groups like the Arizona Disabled Sled Hockey Team, the Gordie Howe Alzheimer’s Charity Fund, the Phoenix & Greater Area Minor Hockey Associations, the Katchinas Girls Hockey Program, various educational scholarships, and more.

Impressive as that sounds, it is a drop in the bucket compared to Gary’s contributions through the years. Gary’s time on the bass fisherman circuit coupled with corporate sponsorships like Mercury Marine and Triton Boats, along with organizational partnerships like the Coyotes, United Food Bank, Alice Cooper Solid Rock Teen Centers, Kurt Warner First Things First Charity, and Mesa United Food Bank, have given him many charitable fundraising opportunities and the ability to make some big-name acquaintances.

Some of those big names include the above-mentioned football hall of famer Kurt Warner and Rock ‘n Roll celebrity Alice Cooper, along with Canadian professional hockey player Shane Doan, Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, and Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypen. And those relationships have spurred even more charitable giving opportunities.

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“I became a professional bass fisherman in 1985 because I loved fishing,” explained Gary. “I ended up with some sponsors quickly and did pretty well. It’s been an opportunity to fish all over the world, meet great people and get involved with some amazing charity work that allowed me to donate trips to benefit others. It really took off when I partnered with the Coyotes.”

The organization holds various fundraising events that attract VIPs from all over the country, many of whom are influential business executives, athletes, and celebrities. Gary’s professional bass boat is typically displayed front and center, and it is not unusual for his donated fishing trips to go as high as $5K.

“I met Alice Cooper at one of the events and now participate in some of the great work he does as well, which includes supporting a 30,000-square foot Teen Center with recording studio and graffiti artist lessons to give kids a safe place to gather,” said Gary. “And the charities Kurt Warner supports are equally amazing and include ‘First Things First’ out of St. Louis, Mo., an organization that helps young single mothers.”

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Fun facts about Gary:

  • Gary has been the district 9 service manager since 2018 but this is his second stint with Thermo King; he was the service manager / operation manager for Thermo King and Cummins Southwest from 1986-1999.
  • Gary has fished all over the world and holds the record for catching the largest tuna in Prince Edward, Canada. Weighing in at 735#, the tuna dragged the boat 10 miles and took 4 hours to land.
  • The top price Gary raised for a fishing trip was $5,500, plus another $400 wager made between the people he took fishing that day – all went to the Arizona Coyotes’ charities. “The trips are all about raising money, having fun, making memories and friendships, catching fish, and typically some good-natured heckling between those fishing,” said Gary.