Cranbrook, BC… In what’s become an annual tradition of saying thanks to its customer and staff, Chris Thom (and his family) of Rocky Mountain Diesel and Autobody have taken the joy of giving back to health care a mainstay of their holiday spirit.

Over the years the family and business have supported EKFH in providing funding for various areas of care for both hospitals and health care facilities throughout the East Kootenay. For the past several years the Autobody side of Rocky Mountain Diesel & Autobody conducts a Crashed Cars awareness event. Every vehicle that enters and leaves the shop receives a personal message from Chris that shares the story of their recognizing the business support and their employees’ commitment with a gift to EKFH.

“It’s an exceptional story of giving back to community,” says Donna Grainger, EKFH Executive Director. “Although the focus of the Starlite Campaign is about lighting stars atop the East Kootenay Regional Hospital roofline it really is the stars on the ground that are making a huge difference in the quality of health care here in the East Kootenay. Chris and Rocky Mountain Diesel have had an incredible impact through their generous financial support over the years, “adds Grainger.

This year the $10,000 gift is being dedicated to support the East Kootenay Regional Hospital Oncology Unit.

“We all know someone whose lives, individually and the family, have been affected with a cancer diagnosis. The gift to the oncology unit is our way of highlighting and saying thanks for the talented and dedicated oncology team that provides services to individuals from throughout the region,” explains Chris Thom, Owner at Rocky Mountain Diesel & Autobody.

Whether you wish to say thanks, acknowledge a loved one, or simply just because a gift to the Starlite Campaign can provide funding to purchase critically needed medical equipment and/or patient comforts. Donations can be made on-line at; at your local hospital or health care facility or through Canada Post to EKFH, 13 24th Ave N, Cranbrook, BC V1C 3H9.

Questions? Call Donna Grainger, Executive Director at 1-877-489-6481 or 250 489-6481.

Cranbrook, BC… As the final few days of EKFH’s Starlite Campaign wind down, Chris Thom, Owner of Rocky Mountain Diesel & Collision presents a $10,000 to the regional hospital foundation.

The donation is made on behalf of the company’s patrons and staff as part of RMD’s ongoing holiday thank you program. Incredibly Rocky Mountain Diesel & Collision and the Thom family have donated over $75,000 to various areas of health care since 2005. This year the gift is dedicated to assist EKFH in its fundraising efforts for equipment for the new 6-bed intensive care unit presently under construction at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital.

“The thanks for making such a contribution to EKFH really belong to our customers and staff. We are grateful for their business and support which allows us to give back to our community,” explains Chris Thom.

A gift of any size makes an impact in the quality of health care in the East Kootenay.

Your ICU needs you. To show your support consider making a donation today, visit

Cranbrook, BC…. It’s become a tradition for almost a decade, the gesture of saying thanks to their staff and customers by illuminating stars at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital. Rocky Mountain Diesel and Collision and the Thom family have been a part of EKFH’s Starlite Campaign since the beginning. Over the years, their financial gifts have supported many facets of health care in the East Kootenay including medical equipment and patient comforts for hospitals; residential care facilities and community programs (occupational therapy, speech therapy and more). It has been a relationship with EKFH that has truly strengthened the quality of care in every community in the region.

“There are no words to describe how you feel when you meet the people first hand that are providing the services to patients that use the equipment we have helped to purchase,” shares Chris Thom, owner at Rocky Mountain Diesel & Collision. “Last year we were able to fund a neuro-bungee jumper and some audiology items for the community therapy programs. Seeing it in use left a huge impact as to what our thank you really means.”

This year the collision side of RMD is focusing on their annual fundraiser Crashed Cars for the ICU. A simple and heartfelt thank you note is left inside every vehicle that Rocky Mountain repairs advising them of their gift. The $10,000 donation is being directed to support EKFH’s fundraising effort not just for the Starlite Campaign but also for the larger capital campaign for equipment for the new 6-bed ICU currently under construction at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital.

For the first time in the history of the Starlite Campaign, the star makers (old and new) will introduce a series of smaller stars. EKFH is thrilled that Rocky Mountain Diesel and Collision will be the first to light those stars. In recognition of their gift, one large star and two smaller stars will shine in honour of RMD’s contribution.

Donna Grainger, EKFH Executive Director, “This is so exciting to be introducing the next set of stars with RMD. Chris and his family were the first to complete the lighting of all the stars several years ago and now their legacy continues to keep the Starlite Campaign expanding.”

It is fitting that large and small stars are combining in the gift. A gift to the ICU capital campaign plays a significant role not just for the intensive care unit but with EKFH taking on the equipment fundraising the funds previously allocated by the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District have been rededicated to improvements and enhancements for the EKRH neo-natal/maternity and pediatric unit. For RMD the large star represents all those adults and the smaller stars the children who benefit from having the best in care at the regional hospital.

Rocky Mountain Diesel and Collision, critical support for intensive care and always a star in giving back. To make a donation to the Starlite Campaign go on-line at

This businessman embraces his community
by Danielle Cameron

Headshot photo of Chris Thom. Chris Thom is proud of his Cranbrook roots, and his quality business.— Photo courtesy Chris Thom
Chris Thom is the CEO and manager of Rocky Mountain Diesel Ltd. Collision Repair Centre in Cranbrook’s industrial park. He was born and raised in the community, and has been living there for 34 years. We asked him a few questions and he took the time to tell us what he loves about living in Cranbrook.

What made you decide to do business in town?
I come from a family of local business people. My parents, and several of my aunts and uncles, own or have owned small businesses in Cranbrook. My wife’s parents and several of her relatives have also owned businesses in Cranbrook. Three years ago my wife and I took over my parents’ company. It was a difficult decision based on many factors but we haven’t looked back. We are so thankful to have had this opportunity.

What do you like most about our community?
I personally enjoy the small-town atmosphere. Clients of our company have also become friends. This leads to relationships which are not all business—our customers rely on us, but we also rely on them. It really becomes more of a partnership, businesses helping businesses.

Do you have any business projects or developments planned for the future?
In April of 2010 we completed a major expansion, adding an automotive and commercial vehicle body shop to our company. This was an 8,000-square-foot addition to our 15,000-square-foot facility. To date we have added eight full-time positions and are currently seeking some additional staff. I am extremely proud of this facility and very excited that it has opened up a new market for us. As for the future, we will continue to look for opportunities to grow and diversify our company.

What kind of leisure/recreational activities do you enjoy when you are not working?
During the winter months we enjoy skiing as a family. We are so lucky to live in a region that offers so many outdoor opportunities.

What would you say to other business people who are thinking of moving to Cranbrook?
I find the business climate in Cranbrook to be extremely supportive. Our chamber of commerce is a strong advocate in the region. We also have organizations such as the Downtown Business Association—they are doing wonderful things to support local business and have implemented some very strong shop-local initiatives.

Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?
Cranbrook and the East Kootenay region as a whole in my mind is probably the most beautiful place on the planet. We have access to many big-city amenities, and yet we have retained our small-town feel. Cranbrook is a fabulous place to raise a family, and we have some of the world’s most sought-after outdoor recreation—most of it within 30 minutes of our front door.

Chris Thom fronts Rocky Mountain Diesel, a company that is standing out from the crowd
by Glynis Fediuk

Truck being painted
Adding a paint booth to their facility allows Rocky Mountain Diesel to better serve customers.
— Kris Lindblad photo
Looking for the largest automotive paint booth in the Kootenays? It’s located at Cranbrook’s Rocky Mountain Diesel. How about the only commercial body shop between Kelowna and Lethbridge? That’s also found at Rocky Mountain Diesel—as is the largest commercial frame-straightening machine in the Kootenays. It’s obvious from speaking to president and owner Chris Thom that his company has found a niche in the Kootenay automotive industry.

Founded by Thom’s father and uncle in 1981, Rocky Mountain Diesel has remained a family-owned company for nearly 30 years. In 1989, the company moved to its current location at 1125 Cobham Avenue West. Thom’s father and mother took over the business in 1993.

Thom’s involvement in the company started in his youth with odd jobs, such as sweeping floors and emptying garbage. He’s had a hand in many different areas of the company, from mechanical jobs such as welding to administrative ones, including warranty administrator and a five-year period as parts manager. He and his wife took over the company on December 1st of 2008.

On November 4th of 2009, Rocky Mountain Diesel began working on its latest expansion, consisting of a new 697-square- metre facility, a downdraft paint booth and a frame-straightening machine. This isn’t the first significant change the company has undergone—464 square metres were added to the facility in 1991. However, these latest additions will help the business build on the many client relations it has built up over three decades, as well as helping to forge new ones.

Thom said that the difficulties in getting commercial work done locally necessitated the type of facilities now found at Rocky Mountain Diesel. Rather than shipping parts to Lethbridge for painting, his staff is now able to get vehicles back on the road in a matter of weeks, not months.

“In moving forward, we were responding to customer needs,” said Thom. “A commercial vehicle (is) their livelihood; they don’t want to have it in the shop for months—they want to get it out as soon as possible and get it back to work, and continue to make the payments. We had to really shorten that time down for people and . . . try to keep our customers on the road where they can make some money.”

Thom said that the many contractors involved in the expansion rose to the challenge of the demanding schedule admirably. Business support also comes from Thom’s wife and parents, both of whom are still involved with the company.

The recent changes, the strong group of employees and the dedication to its customers make it clear that Rocky Mountain Diesel will continue to prosper. Thom said he’s anticipating a bright future, including an increase in the number of employees from the current 26 to around 40 within the next year.

“We’re (excited about) moving forward and supporting the local economies,” Thom said, “and doing what we need to do so that everyone can be successful.”

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The Starlite Campaign for Excellence in Health Care lights up its 10th star as part of an early Christmas present from Rocky Mountain Diesel’s Chris Thom. Recognizing their customers and staff with a gift to health care has become a standing tradition for the truck and collision repair centre.

Last year Rocky Mountain Diesel was also the organization who made Starlite history by lighting the 17th star of the annual fundraising campaign.

Changing things up a bit this year, Chris decided to light a star just before Christmas and choose one of their recent customers and local celebrity Loree Duczek to share in the honour.

“I chose Rocky Mountain Diesel Collision Repair Centre because of their reputation for excellence. From customer service to quality workmanship, my experience with their team was exceptional from beginning to end. I will continue to support them and recommend them to others not only because of the work they do, but also because of their commitment to this community. Small business is the heart of our community and Rocky Mountain Diesel Collision Repair Centre is an example of a business that cares. Thank you to Chris, Jason and the RMD team for supporting the Starlite campaign and for being part of the effort to bring a digital stereotactic mammography unit to Cranbrook. Your generosity is appreciated. I am proud to support a business that truly supports this community,” explained Loree.

Rocky Mountain Diesel is focused on lighting another star in the New Year with a portion of their proceeds coming from repairs down through their collision repair centre. The business a proud partner of East Kootenay Foundation for Health and the Starlite campaign.

Above photo L-R: Jason Thom (Body Shop Manager), Loree Duczek (RMD Customer) and Chris Thom (Owner)

Donna Grainger, Executive Director
East Kootenay Foundation for Health

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In the words of John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

According to East Kootenay Foundation for Health (EKFH) executive director , Donna Grainger these words aptly describe the individuals and the organizations who have united together to light the last two stars as part of the 2011 Starlite Campaign for Excellence in Health Care.

Chris Thom of Rocky Mountain Diesel and Joey Hoechsmann from The Bedroom Furniture Galleries are such leaders. The two friends and recognizable business owners are always looking for new creative ways to not only promote their organizations; they always keep an eye out when doing so to help others. For this story the lucky recipient is the East Kootenay Foundation for Health, the Starlite Campaign for Excellence in Health Care and the fundraising drive to bring a digital stereotactic mammography unit to the regional hospital.

With only two stars remaining out of 17 to be lit, Chris and Joey met at lunch and discussed uniting their efforts by presenting EKFH with $5,000 each to light final stars 16 and 17. The Bedroom Furniture Galleries raised their donations through the sales of Curly Critters at their store, at several hockey games and with a top off gift of a personal donation by Joey & Christine Hoechsmann. The Thom family (Chris & Olivia) created a unique thank you card placed in every automotive repair that came through their shop from November 24 to January 31. Rocky Mountain Diesel made an additional $5,000 gift just prior to Christmas in honour of their clients and staff.

The lighting of the 17 stars is only the second time to happen in the history of the Starlite Campaign. The 2011 fundraising goal was not only the beautiful blue stars but to raise the usual fundraising goal from $85,000 to $100,000 and encouraging the majority of donations to be dedicated to the digital stereotactic mammography fund.

Thanks to Rocky Mountain Diesel and The Bedroom Furniture and all the other donations the Starlite Campaign has hit the $93,981 mark with only a few more days to go before the stars are turned off for another year.

Sharing in the celebration of this achievement is one of EKFH’s board members, Wes Rogers, “It is truly gratifying for the foundation to garner support from donors throughout the East Kootenay Region. Leading by doing is probably one of the biggest shows of support that the foundation could ask for and we sincerely thank Chris and Joey for doing just that.”

The Starlit e Campaign for excellence in health care will close tomorrow (January 31); if you are still interested in making a gift as part of this annual fundraising campaign, please visit the secured website,

Above photo: L-R: Wes Rogers (EKFH Director), Chris Thom, Joey Hoechsmann and Donna Grainger. Photo submitted

After years of support HYDRECS makes last special gift

After a decade of support, Jonathon Eadie representative for the BC Hydro Employee’s Community Services (HYDRECS) Fund made a final gift of $1,000 to East Kootenay Foundation for Health for the A Clear View – digital mammography campaign.

The HYDRECS Fund was established in 1989 and in 2012 the organization decided to restructure the program for retirees and employees to give to local charities which will now be done through the United Way.

In the fall of 2011, just prior to this decision, HYDRECS also committed up to $10,000 to East Kootenay Foundation for Health to fund the purchase of a Billi-intensive phototherapy system for the Golden Hospital Neonatal ward.

“What an honour to receive this gift,” shares Donna Grainger EKFH Executive Director. “As a former BC Hydro employee I know very well the impact the HYDRECS fund has had for many charities and individuals across the province. It is rather humbling while at Hydro to have been part of that giving and now representing EKFH, the recipient of these final special funds.”

The community charity drive over the years has donated over $25,000 in support and has helped purchase medical equipment for many areas of care in the East Kootenay.

Though the HYDRECS Fund itself may be changing the spirit and generosity of many employees and retirees from BC Hydro will continue to be a key driver in charitable efforts.

On behalf of East Kootenay Foundation for Health, thank you HYDRECS for making a difference to health care in the East Kootenay.

East Kootenay Foundation for Health

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Crashed Cars for Crash Carts brings $10,000 in RMD Starlite Spirit
Posted: December 20, 2012

The holiday spirit continues for Cranbrook’s Rocky Mountain Diesel & Autobody Ltd., which is continuing its annual holiday tradition by making a significant gift to East Kootenay Foundation for Health for its Starlite Campaign.

“When the foundation told us that they were thanking the region by lighting all the stars at once this year, it didn’t change our mind about supporting health care. After working with Donna we came up with a creative fundraiser called Crashed Cars for Crash Carts, which highlights our body shop and the emergency and intensive care units at the hospital,” shares a smiling Chris Thom, Owner of RMD.

In honour of its customers and staff RMD is going to purchase two trauma crash carts ($10,000) for the emergency department and Intensive Care Unit for the East Kootenay Regional Hospital.

A crash cart is a wheeled cabinet for storing lifesaving equipment which contains all of the equipment necessary for emergency resuscitation, from latex gloves to a defibrillator. Crash carts are conveniently positioned throughout hospitals and some other medical facilities so that they can be quickly accessed in an emergency.

The Thom family started their tradition of sharing thanks at the same time the EKFH launched its Starlite Campaign for Excellence in Health Care. Over the past five years, Rocky Mountain Diesel has contributed over $56,500 in funding through the campaign. Their support has been focused on seniors’ facilities in the East Kootenay, support of last year’s digital mammography campaign and now key equipment for the emergency and trauma care areas of the hospital.

The 2012 theme of the Starlite Campaign is you OUR Stars. Thank you Rocky Mountain Diesel for shining your star to the benefit of others living in the East Kootenay. To make your own Starlite gift visit us at

Above photo L-R: Jeannie Kambeitz (RN) joins Chris Thom (Rocky Mountain Diesel) and AJ Brekke (Manager Critical Care) to discuss the major benefits of adding crash carts to the Emergency and ICU units at EKRH.


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Rocky Mountain Diesel’s new downdraft paint booth is the largest in the region.
— Kris Lindblad photo

No one wants to see damage befall their automobile. However, when hard times strike, it’s comforting for an owner to know that their vehicle is in safe and reliable hands. At Rocky Mountain Diesel, located in Cranbrook, B.C., the team of professionals are bringing vehicles back to a road-worthy shape.

Rocky Mountain Diesel provides automotive maintenance on a diverse range of vehicles, from commercial and recreational rigs to cars and trucks. The services available include sandblasting, painting, body repair, and a comprehensive list of additional services. It has a welding and fabrication shop and handles both ICBC and private insurance claims.

Impressive transformations

Chris Thom, the owner of Rocky Mountain Diesel, has been at the helm of the Cranbrook-based company for two years. In that time, he has seen the company undergo a massive transformation: the addition of a 697-square-metre facility, complete with a commercial frame-straightening machine and a downdraft paint booth. This expansion was another way for Rocky Mountain Diesel to differentiate itself from other automotive service providers.

Prior to the expansion, when a commercial vehicle was in a collision, its owners were forced to wait as parts were shipped to larger centres for painting or repair. There were no facilities within the Kootenays to serve these particular needs, costing commercial vehicle owners both time and money.

Now, with Rocky Mountain Diesel’s new facilities, owners can see their vehicle back on the road within a matter of weeks instead of months. As the only facility of its kind in the region, it fills a valuable niche.

Construction of the new facility began on November 4 of 2009 and it opened for business on March 15 of 2010. Thom said that he has heard exceptionally positive feedback from his business’s clients.

“One of the big bonuses with the body shop (was that) it gave us a competitive edge, offering services that no one else offers,” said Thom. “Hopefully, that draws attention to the entire company as a whole, instead of just one aspect of it.”

It’s all about the people

While the impressive facilities attract attention, it is the people—both the staff and the clientele—at Rocky Mountain Diesel that can be credited for the company’s long-standing success. Good communication and teamwork enable the mechanics, painters and body workers to finish jobs quickly and efficiently.

A strong returning customer base is a sign of an accomplished company, and indeed, Thom said that there is a group of customers that have been returning year after year for Rocky Mountain Diesel’s services. The company has been operating since 1981 and has undergone numerous augmentations through the years. These include a move to its current location at 1125 Cobham Avenue West in 1989 and adding 464.5 square metres to its existing facility in 1993.

“A lot of (customers) have been with this company since its inception,” said Thom. “To have a customer remain loyal to you for 30-plus years is something that we take great pride in.”

Rocky Mountain Diesel’s commitment to its clients is evident. Customer interactions are paramount at Rocky Mountain Diesel; the employees strive to make every customer feel valued and more than just another face.

“We really see each and every customer as a business partner, not so much as a customer,” said Thom. “In order for us to be successful, they have to be successful.”

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