J.D. Pope knew he had a big graduation present coming during his party Saturday, but he didn’t know exactly what the surprise would be.
He was all smiles walking out of the back door of Knockerball Saturday evening to see his present – a 2007 Ford Fusion with 57,000 miles.
The grin just got bigger when he sat behind the wheel and turned the key.
The engine purred immediately and ran reliably as Pope checked out the features.
It was a moment born when Pope’s old car failed him, conking out as he drove to graduate with his fellow Gaston High School Class of 2018 graduates. He got there late, and he was not allowed to come inside to walk with his class or to see graduation.
Pope’s plight became a cause on social media, and people who knew Pope and his story stepped in supporting Pope and establishing a GoFundMe account to raise money to buy Pope a better car.
Angela and Alfredo Tuck, owners of Knockerball in the the Gadsden Mall arranged a graduation party for him, donating the use of the recreation spot.
Pope’s grandmother, Sharon Ogles, said Angela Tuck knew Pope’s mother and wanted to give J.D. a special gift for graduation.
Pope’s mother died a few years ago, and since that time, Pope and his brother have been on their own. Pope has worked while going to school, and he’s been plagued with an unreliable automobile for a while before the fateful drive to graduation.
While plenty of anger was expressed on social media regarding Pope not getting to participate at graduation, he was ready to let it all go.
He’s working, since school ended, at America’s Thrift Store. His grandmother said he’s planning to go to Gadsden State Community College in the fall.
Ogle said he’s got a really positive attitude.
“He was heartbroken,” she said of the graduation situation, but he’s just tried to put it all behind him.
A number of people in the Gaston area and the surrounding communities weren’t ready to do that.
They established the account and raised $4,700. They worked with Jarus Rawls at Ronnie Watkins Ford to find Pope a good used car, and when they went to Bob’s Tires, they got a set of tires donated.
Having been handed the keys to the car, Pope got another gift. Radio station 99.1/99.3 gave Pope tickets for three Chattanooga attractions, including the Tennessee Aquarium and its IMAX theater.
“Road trip,” Pope said, to cheers from his family and friends.