For his daughter’s sweet 16, Kevin Duke wanted to gift her with her first car. But as he inspected a used car at his local dealership, he made a haunting discovery inside the glove compartment that would bring him to tears — and fill him with regret.
Sweet Sixteen Dream
Most kids have one thing in mind when they turn 16, and that’s getting behind the wheel of their very own car and taking the town. 15-year-old Jada Duke was no different. In January of 2015, she was just a couple of months away from her sixteenth birthday, and was itching to get behind the wheel.
Knowing this, her father Kevin Duke decided to start looking for a good starter car for her. He scoured the Web and even drove all around town with little luck. All that changed when one of the customers at his construction job tipped him off on some key information.
A Possible Match
Kevin’s coworker told him all about a car that she thought would suit Jada just perfectly. The vehicle in question was a used Ford Fusion that was supposedly still in remarkable condition. But despite the claims, Kevin wasn’t going to buy the car without taking it for a drive himself. He also wanted to give the car a meticulous look over for anything that could cause problems.
Determined to make sure there were no flaws, he checked it over at least six times. After a closer inspection of the glove compartment, Kevin found something that was very strange. Though it seemed of little significance, it would end up taking him on an emotional roller coaster ride.
A Strange Discovery
As it turned out, Kevin Duke’s thorough search yielded results. In an interview with CNHI News, Duke recalled, “This time I noticed that the cover on the bottom was removable. I thought it might be dirty so I popped the cover loose and when I did, I saw the corner of the envelope.”
It’s not at all common to encounter such a personal relic left behind inside of a used car, as dealerships are quick to clean out the vehicle. Intrigued, Kevin got comfortable in the car and opened the envelope. What he saw inside was even to bring this grown man to tears.
A Car Speaks
As he examined the envelope, Kevin found a haunting memento that had been purposefully left behind. The letter read: “This car holds a lot of special memories for me. My home and everything in it is gone, this car is all that I had left to touch. My family filled this car with lots of love and other sticky things.”
The letter further detailed some of the memories that had taken place in the car, “We took two road trips, blasted ’80s and country music and rolled the windows down. I’ve changed more diapers in the backseat than I can count. There’s probably a sucker stick or a crayon hidden somewhere that belonged to my baby…” As he continued reading, more mysteries behind the car’s condition were brought to light.
Behind The Damage
The car wasn’t in pristine shape when Kevin had first seen it. During his first investigation of the car, Kevin noticed it was sporting a decent number of dents and scratches. The secret note he found stashed away in the car revealed how they had come to be.
The mystery writer behind the note revealed that, “The dent on the rear drivers side fender and the dent in the passenger side door are where my daughter learned to ride…and crash…her bike…” As the letter continued, more questions arose. And soon, Kevin would find himself devastated by the lives recalled in the note.
The Car Has A Name
As Kevin read on, he found out that the car had a name. The letter from the glove compartment explained: “The very first day Mom got this car, we all rode around and Dr. Hook’s ‘Sylvia’s Mother’ came on the radio. The name kind of just stuck when…my daughter said that’s what we should name the car.”
The letter then took a very urgent turn. Its writer begged, “So please don’t change her name.” That plea was the start of an unexpected turn for the letter’s tone. Kevin soon found out the horrible truth behind why the car and its last owner eventually were compelled to part ways.
The Tragic Truth
The next portion of the letter would move Kevin to tears. It finally revealed the full emotional weight the car had borne. “I just wanted to let you know what a special vehicle you’ve bought. This car belonged to my mom. She passed away Feb. 25, 2015 in a house fire along with my 6 year old daughter and my aunt.”
Kevin found himself reeling in shock from what he had just learned. The car had its own role to play in the heart-wrenching sequence of events: “The last time my mom drove this car was the day she left us.” With tears streaming down his cheeks, Kevin couldn’t help but wonder who wrote the letter and how the person was doing.
The writer behind the tragic note in the used car’s glove compartment was named Sabrina Archey. Her mom and aunt were two supportive pillars that were always there for her and her eldest daughter was the sunshine of her life. When the unimaginable tragedy had befallen her family, she was at work and had absolutely no idea what was going on.
After that fateful day, Sabrina was thrown into one of the hardest periods of her entire life. Not only did she lose her mother, daughter and aunt, but she’d have to deal with an array of horrible repercussions that came with losing them.
Losing More Than Family
As if losing the most important people in her life hadn’t been painful enough, Sabrina also lost her home. Over the course of a single day, this young lady found herself going from having shelter and a loving family to go with it, to being homeless and still needing to care for her remaining younger daughter.
While almost everything she had held dear was gone, Sabrina still was able to hold onto a few precious possessions. She had her late mother’s car and a backpack that her deceased daughter had left inside the car. That car held a lot of memories, and owning it was like owning a piece of her mom and daughter. However, just when things looked as if they couldn’t get any worse, they did.
Losing The Final Piece
In the letter, Sabrina went on to detail how she had lost the car. She said, “There was a mix up with paperwork and that’s caused the car to not be paid off by insurance.” It was this common mistake that resulted in the car being ripped away from her. It was the final blow in a devastating series of events.
She further wrote, “It’s very upsetting that I have lost my family, my home, and now I’m losing this last link I have with my mom and child through no fault of my own.” Yet somehow, despite having every right in the world to feel bitter about the situation, she didn’t let that change her. Something happened that would boost her faith in humanity.
A Little Help From Her Friends
Sabrina came from a very supportive community. The men and women of her town would not let her bear the heartache alone. They came together and helped her immensely when it came to the funeral cost. Even still, it ended up not being enough.
Sabrina was left behind with a heap of financial burdens. While the company that financed her mother’s car sympathized with her and even tried to help her out, they eventually had to take the car away. As she looked sadly through the car one final time, she saw something that both brought her to tears and inspired her.
Imprint From The Past
Before giving up her mother’s car and never seeing it again, Sabrina Archey was taking mental inventory of the vehicle that had contained so many family memories. It was then that she spotted an imprint from her late daughter’s child-sized shoe on the dashboard in front of where she used to sit.
A torrent of memories and tears surged out of her. She knew in that moment she had to write a letter and leave behind a trace of her and her family’s existence. Even if she had no idea how long it would take to be discovered, she had to express her one final dream for her mother’s car.
She closed the letter by making her peace with whoever would inherit her mother’s car. “I’m not mad at you. I hope this car is the best car you’ve ever owned. I hope it runs for 100 more years. I hope the back seat is filled with kids and toys and random things.”
Sabrina reminded the reader that vivid life moments had happened in that car. Her mother’s vehicle wasn’t just a car but a moving memory full of joy, love, and adventure. It was truly the last piece of her late family. The letter then got even more personal. Sabrina had instructions for the car’s new driver.
A Special Song Request
In order to keep the car’s original vibe alive, Sabrina instructed the following songs to be played at least once inside the vehicle to awaken those memories. She wrote, “Play it a country song, Big Green Tractor was my daughter’s favorite song ever, or some Lynyrd Skynyrd Freebird.”
She further emphasized, “That song meant so much to us that I played it at their funerals.” These simple requests would be easy enough to follow, but there was more. As the letter came to a close, she had one last plea, just in case that things changed for her in the future.
She Wants It Back
It should come as no surprise that deep down, Sabrina wanted the car back. At the end of the note, she left a final plea asking, “If you ever want to sell Sylvia, please try to find me. I just paid for 3 funerals, I can’t afford to buy it right now, but hopefully I’ll be in a better financial situation if you decide later that she’s just not right for you anymore.”
Shaken to his core, Kevin bought the car. Yet long after the purchase, the note stuck with him. He couldn’t stop thinking about Sabrina and her struggles, and soon he felt a twinge of regret. He suddenly found himself inspired to do something incredibly touching.
After being touched by the letter, Kevin felt that he had to reach out to Sabrina and let her know that the car had found its way into the hands of good people. Luckily for him, she wasn’t faraway. Sabrina was living in Greenup, Kentucky, just a fifteen-minute drive from Kevin Duke’s home in nearby Flatwoods.
Finding her proved to be a simple task. After their understandably emotional meeting, he asked if he could post the letter on Facebook. He just felt that the world needed to hear her touching story. She agreed — and then her life began to take a wild turn.
Her Letter Went Viral
Nobody expected the responses that would come from sharing the letter. Once Kevin posted Sabrina’s letter on Facebook, it was met with instant success and went viral. Things went to the next level when the letter was quickly picked up by the popular website Love What Matters, and got 19,000 reactions from all around the globe.
Millions of hearts went out to Sabrina Archey and many people believed that Kevin should do the right thing and return her mother’s car to her. Yet while the majority of the online masses hoped and dreamed for Sabrina’s happiness, one reader decided to actually do something about it.
A Determined Stranger
800 miles west of Kentucky was a Kansas resident by the name of Tammi Warrington. She stumbled across the story and couldn’t believe what she was reading. Having kids of her own and relating to the pain one feels upon losing a parent, she was moved to tears by Sabrina’s story.
Tammi couldn’t imagine the pain of losing a daughter, and told CJ Online how devastated she felt on Sabrina’s behalf. Feeling like she could make a difference in this woman’s life, Tammi was determined to get that car back to Sabrina. She immediately set to working towards a solution.
Tammi’s Search For Kevin
When Tammi first came across the letter online, the bottom of the letter with Sabrina’s signature had been blocked out by Kevin. Because of that, Tammi had no idea who had written the letter. She only knew that Kevin Duke was the original poster, and decided that she’d need to reach out to him in order to help Sabrina.
Tammi messaged him, explaining her ultimate goal of coming up with a solution as to how to return the Ford Fusion to Sabrina. Kevin saw and replied to her message. He was more than willing to take part in Tammi’s plan. He also let her in on something that shocked her.
Tammi’s Master Plan
Luckily for Tammi, contacting Kevin helped to lead her right to Sabrina. He told her that he had already been in contact with Sabrina, and that he’d be happy to come to a solution that could result in her getting her mother’s car back. Naturally, it couldn’t happen without Kevin getting a replacement car for his daughter.
The two put their minds together and figured out how much it’d cost to replace Kevin’s daughter’s used car. After taking into consideration credit card and processing fees, it’d cost them about $12,000. They landed upon the perfect idea as to how to raise money.
Sabrina’s Fundraising Campaign
The two set up an online fundraising campaign for Sabrina. Initially, the dough wasn’t rolling in as quickly as they hoped it would. In the campaign’s first few weeks, they only managed to raise a few hundred dollars. However, one day, they checked the account — and found they had earned an incredible $3,500.
Tammi checked her email and found hundreds of messages from Sabrina’s supporters. Not long after, they found out that Sabrina’s story and the fundraising campaign had been featured on an Australian TV program. Their story made international headlines, and was poised to take another giant leap.
Big In America
While the story made television in Australia, it was yet to find a massive American audience and that’s exactly what they needed in order to reach their goal. Thankfully, not long after having been featured in Australian media, American channel TLC’s This Is Life Live contacted Warrington.
They wanted to hear all about Sabrina’s blooming friendship with Tammi and the Duke family. Kevin agreed that he would appear in front of the television cameras. When the producers told him what they hoped to see, he was absolutely ecstatic. They were going to deliver a scene that the masses would never forget.
An Awe-Inspiring Moment
Before the eyes of viewers the world over, Kevin Duke was able to hand over the keys to the Ford Fusion back to Sabrina. It was a deeply emotional and meaningful moment for everyone involved. While the money was eventually raised and Kevin was able to get his daughter a new car, there was still one question on everyone’s mind.
Many people wondered why he didn’t just hand over the vehicle to Sabrina to begin with. During an interview with CNHI News, he stated, “I didn’t want to make any money from it. If I could have afforded to replace the car, then I would have just given in to her.” When all was said and done, the money raised from TV appearances didn’t just reunite Sabrina with her mom’s car. It had went far further than Kevin and Tammi could have imagined.
The terrible series of losses that Sabrina had suffered in 2015 hurt her not just emotionally, but also financially. The poor woman found herself standing before a mountain of debt that had to be paid off. With the money raised, Sabrina was at last able to clear her name of the debts she had left over.
She wouldn’t exactly be leaving the past behind her, it was a step in the right direction. Kevin Duke discovering that letter pushed Sabrina’s life in a new direction: only a couple years after getting the car back, she was able to get a second shot at love and a new husband. But where was Kevin’s daughter Jada while all this was happening?
Introducing Sylvia 2
With Sabrina’s debacle surrounding her mother’s car resolved and a new love in her life, it seemed her life had at least been brought some balance. But 16-year-old Jada didn’t magically stop wanting a car once she’d found out the terrible backstory of her last vehicle. Thankfully, Kevin had enough funds to buy her a brand new starter car.
As a way of paying tribute to Sabrina and her first car, Jada named her new car Sylvia 2. As this young lady embarks on a new era in her life, we can only hope that her new car experiences all the love, laughs, and adventures that the original Sylvia got to live through.
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