It would have taken about a year for Volunteer High School athletic trainer Audrey Stanley to save enough for a down payment to replace her sketchy 19-year-old Olds, but on Tuesday about 50 of her friends and coworkers chipped in and saved her the trouble.
Stanley was presented a shiny blue 2007 Honda Fit Tuesday morning during an elaborate early April Fool’s trick that she didn’t figure out until she noticed her name on the front vanity tag.
Buying a decent vehicle wasn’t going to be easy for Stanley, who will be financially hampered by crushing student loan debt until around 2023.
Although she downplays the rough condition of her 1998 Oldsmobile Intrigue, coworkers including VHS athletic director Jim Whalen weren’t very confident that her car would survive the year.
“She’s had this one car, and it’s a piece of junk,” Whalen said. “She’s spent all kinds of money trying to keep this thing going. One of my friends (Pastor Jonathan Lovelace) found this car, and he said it would be a good car for Audrey.
“We got to talking and decided we’d try to split (the cost) up. He got some people, and I got some people here, just word of mouth, and we tried to keep it quiet because we didn’t want her to know about it.”
Within 48 hours they raised the approximately $5,500 needed to purchase the Honda.
Stanley was notified Tuesday morning that she needed to attend a mandatory coaches meeting, but when she arrived, there were a few people in the room who didn’t belong there.
Whalen said he winged it during that fake meeting for awhile to make it believable, but really they were there for Stanley.
“They said we had to go outside to look at something on the softball field, and that was weird,” Stanley said. “I thought maybe somebody left the gate open and they were going to get a lecture. Then they started saying this car had started trouble on the softball field over the weekend and it was registered to me. And I thought, ‘That’s silly. Ha, ha.’
“And then I realized everyone was recording me and they’re smiling, and I said, ‘OK, something is going on.’ I kind of thought for a second that I was getting a golf cart because my golf cart has been on the fritz, and they said, come around and look at the tag on the front, and it has my name on it. So then I cried.”
Recently her Oldsmobile has had a ruptured brake line, muffler problems, and the radiator had to be replaced. Adding insult to injury, the air conditioning quit about a year and a half ago.
“After it was over, she hugged her car, and she said this is the nicest car she’s ever had,” Whalen said. “You ought to see the upgrade. Everybody knew she just struggled with this car she had and having to put money into it. This was just something that needed to be done for her.”
About 50 teachers, coaches, school staff and friends chipped in to help buy the car.
It was just a coincidence that March is National Athletic Training Month to spread awareness of and appreciation for the important work of athletic trainers.
Stanley said she feels more than appreciated.
“It made me feel very loved,” she said. “I think more so than the car, just the outpouring of love and appreciation that was shown to me. I got the best appreciation gift any athletic trainer has ever received.”