ST. GEORGE – Aaron and Annie VanMeter got quite a surprise Monday when a friend asked them to make a quick stop at Dealer Collision Repair in St. George, ostensibly to see a friend.
When the couple and their two boys stepped inside the automotive repair center, they learned they were the proud new owners of a Honda Odyssey van – a ride big enough to hold their whole family.
The VanMeters are the parents of two young boys and twin daughters. When the girls were born almost a year ago, they could no longer fit into their passenger car.
“They just have really struggled,” VanMeters’ friend and former neighbor Candice Chandler said. “… When they had their two little baby girls, then they can’t fit their whole family anymore into their little car and they have absolutely no financial way to purchase a larger vehicle.”
For the last year, she said, the VanMeters have been relying on friends and neighbors to get to doctor’s appointments, church and everything else.
“Together with the Wade Family Foundation and Dealer Collision, we found you a van – that is yours,” foundation president Tyler Wade said to the family Monday.
The announcement was met with big smiles from the VanMeters.
“This is a complete shock,” Aaron VanMeter said. “Just the fact that we have six family members in a five-seater vehicle; so, this is absolutely awesome to get a van.”
The giveaway happened by way of a contest announced on the radio, Monty Magleby, executive director of the Wade Family Foundation, said.
“They actually did some radio ads and they invited the public to nominate a good, deserving family,” Magleby said, “and Candice (Chandler) here and several of her neighbors and friends – a dozen or two – emailed in and nominated this young family ….”
Chandler used to live near the couple and was one of the people who emailed a nomination of the VanMeters for the giveaway. Dealer Collision responded to Chandler and eventually the surprise giveaway was arranged.
Shelly Harris, also a friend and neighbor of the VanMeters, helped plan the elaborate surprise.
“They think we’re just going to get ice cream,” Harris said before the presentation, “and I’m going to tell them that I have a friend I need to quickly stop by and talk to, and have them follow me over there.”
The 2004 Honda Odessey needed a little work, Dealer Collision mechanic Andrew Kuykendall said. The shop installed a new transmission, replaced the timing belt and water pump and gave the van a valve adjustment and tune-up. New tires and an alignment were added and the van was good to go.
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