Drew was one of many kids around the country who was getting in trouble for his chronic tardiness. The only difference was why he was always late. Drew wasn’t addicted to the snooze, and he wasn’t trying to skip out on going to class. In fact, he wasn’t at all to blame for his poor punctuality.
Drew showed up late because of his mother’s health. In addition, her old car tended to break down.
Back in 2015, the family car was giving his mother trouble. Drew and his then 25-year-old mother, Natalie Garfield, couldn’t rely on their Dodge Durango to get them to school. The SUV was in need of desperate repairs that they couldn’t afford, and Drew was paying the price for it.
When the can wouldn’t start, the kid and her mother had to walk 30 minutes only to arrive to the bus stop.
But Garlfield’s osteoporosis made long walks very tough and painful “In the mornings is especially hard for me to get going.” Said the mother.
So Drew used to miss the school bus.
After arriving to school late for the third time, Drew was put in detention.
When his mother found out what detention involved, she was not happy.
Garfield said that Drew was crying when he went in to school that day. He knew he was getting a detention for being late, per the school policy.
“[The school has] a policy where every three tardies, you get a detention,” she told ABC News. “Every tardy after that, you get a detention.”
She decided to visit her son during lunch to cheer him up during detention. He was so upset about it earlier that morning, so, feeling responsible, it was her motherly instinct to make her son feel better. She’s glad she went by, because otherwise she wouldn’t have known what “detention” meant.
Garfield took pictures of her son sitting at a table by himself, with a cardboard divider separating him from the rest of his schoolmates and two or three books next to him.
“My heart just broke, because he was sitting there, and he just was kind of peeking around the side. I just felt terrible for him, He wasn’t tardy so many times that he deserved that.” Garfield said.
She was angry, emotionally distraught, and posted the photos on Facebook. The images spread quickly, and onlookers were torn to bits when they saw Drew humiliated by the faculty and staff of the school.
“This is my grandson, Drew. He’s a little first grader,” Drew’s grandmother Laura Hoover posted on Facebook. “His mom found him there, crying, and took him home for the day.”
Eventually the photos of Drew sitting in the cafeteria, isolated from the other kids by a cardboard divider, gained enough attention that a local radio host contacted Natalie.
AM 1440 radio personality William Mars first heard of Drew’s story through listeners to his show, and when he saw the images for himself, he wanted to help fix the cause of the tardiness.
“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,” Mars told us
After Mars reached out to Lucille Cullen, owner of Lucille Automotive, and asked if she’d be willing to do the repairs, she agreed. The family dropped their car off at the auto repair shop, thrilled and grateful they were going to have their car fixed.
As it turns out, their Dodge Durango was in such bad shape it was beyond repair.
“The repairs were more than what the car was actually worth,” Lucille said.
When the family returned to pick up their car, they figured they would thank everyone for trying to help them, but ultimately be in the same position they were in before.
Little did they know what was in the works.
Mars wanted to do everything he could to help the struggling mother, he generously offered to buy a 2011 Chrysler Town and Country van for the whole family.
Other local area shops donated new tires and a new windshield,
Mars also put about $1,400 worth of maintenance and repairs into the vehicle.
“It wasn’t a latest model car but it was totally reliable, Natalie wouldn’t have to deal with repairs for a long time”
“We were so shocked; it doesn’t seem real. I’m trying to tell Drew that this doesn’t just happen to you.”
Since getting their new van, Drew hasn’t been late to school a single time. And the school amended its tardiness protocol.
“As a result of the concerns raised, the district ended the learning catch-up location at Lincoln Elementary School,” the Grants Pass District said in a statement. “Going forward, a separate, supervised classroom has been designated for necessary catch-up work.”
All Natalie ever wanted was to be able to get Drew to school on time. And she wanted a change to the school policy which she felt disproportionately punished her son for things that were beyond his control. The community came together and gave her so much more.
“We’re so thankful to all the people in our community that have just been so supportive,” she said.
“This family never asked for the help. All they ever wanted was to change the school policy,” Mars said. “We saw a way to do a little nudge, and then everyone else came in with their time and generosity.”