GRANTS PASS, Ore. (WKRN) – After a picture of a boy eating lunch behind a barrier as punishment for being late to school went viral, his community banded together to donate a car to the family so it wouldn’t happen again.
According to ABC News, Hunter Cmelo’s family received a new minivan thanks to their local community of business owners and a local radio host who heard their story.
Hunter, 6, arrived late to Lincoln Elementary School last week because the family’s Dodge Durango was not working and was too costly to repair.
“(The school has) a policy where every three tardies, you get a detention,” Hunter’s mother, Nicole Garloff, 25, told ABC News. “Every tardy after that, you get a detention.”
Realizing he would receive detention, Hunter cried as he went in to school that day.
Garloff was shocked when she visited him at lunch and took a photo of what his detention was actually like.
“He was at the first table as you walk into the cafeteria, and he was just sitting there with one of those cardboard poster partitions in front of him,” Garloff said. “He wasn’t tardy so many times that he deserved that.
Garloff posted the picture of Hunter’s punishment to Facebook and the image of her son sitting alone at lunch behind a barrier went viral.
It was brought to the attention of AM 1440 radio personality Bill Meyer, who motivated the community to help out this family in need.
“We see a lot of bad news, or we have a lot of problems. So seldomly do we ever get a chance to fix the root of the problem,” Meyer told ABC News. “I saw the school policy as being unjust, but I saw the root of the trouble was car trouble.”
Meyer reached out to Kelly’s Automotive, but owner Lisa McClease-Kelly said the repairs were worth more than the car itself. That’s when Rapid Repo and Collections offered to donate a 2001 Chrysler Town and Country van to the family.
Other businesses pitched in to restore the minivan, installing a new windshield and new tires.
McClease-Kelly donated $1,400 in maintenance to it and offered to give the family three free oil changes a year to keep the minivan going. Other community members chipped in to purchase the family gas cards.
Hunter’s family was surprised when they came to the shop this week.
“We thought we were going there to be told that our Durango was not going to be fixable at all,” Garloff said. “We were so shocked, it doesn’t seem real. I’m trying to tell Hunter that this doesn’t just happen to you.”
“This family never asked for the help. All they ever wanted was to change the school policy,” Meyer said.
“We saw a way to do a little nudge, and then everyone else came in with their time and generosity.”
Garloff said Hunter hasn’t been late since the family got the van.
“We’re so thankful to all the people in our community that have just been so supportive,” Garloff said.
The school has since adjusted its ‘shunning’ policy.