As Kevin Duke was inspecting a used car to buy for his daughter's 16th birthday, he stumbled across a mysterious envelope. Little did he know this discovery would change his life forever. Here's his story.
Turning 16 is a major milestone in arguably any teenager's life. It's the age where more freedom is given by receiving a driver's license. And some lucky few may even get a car to drive themselves around town.
One of these fortunate individuals was Jada Duke. When her 16th birthday was approaching in 2015, her father started his mission looking for a car to gift his daughter. Kevin Duke was committed to buying the right car for Jada, so he scoured the internet. But he ended up finding a lead when he least expected it.
One of Kevin's customers at his construction site at work told him he knew about a Ford Fusion that was up for sale. Of course, he was excited, but he didn't get his hopes up just yet. First, he needed to thoroughly inspect the vehicle before officially buying it for his teenager.
Not only did he want to take the car out for a ride himself, but he also checked the mechanics of it - as well as the interior. Kevin was so diligent that he searched the automobile a total of 6 times. But during one of his inspections, he soon discovered something in the glove compartment box...
As Kevin was searching the car, he stumbled upon an unusual item. "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," he said to CNHI News during an interview.
While usually, past owners of vehicles empty out their cars, this Ford Fusion still had an envelope from the previous driver. Kevin wasn't sure if it was intentional or not, so he picked it up, eager to read what it said. It didn't take long before the letter brought him to tears...
The heartfelt letter was filled with information about the previous owners of the car. Inside the envelope was written, "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."
Kevin continued reading, "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…"
Previous to discovering the note, Kevin was meticulously examining the Ford Fusion. As he looked throughout the car, he found that it wasn't in pristine condition, which wasn't a surprise since it was a used car. He wondered how there came to be so many slashes and dents.
It didn't take long before his questions were getting some answers. The letter revealed, "The dent on the rear driver's side fender and the dent in the passenger side door are where my daughter learned to ride… and crash… her bike…" Yet that was just the start of the whirlwind story he was about to read about.
In each sentence, Kevin was learning new facts about the car he was thinking of buying. The old owner even shared the vehicle's name: "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."
Kevin was stunned at what he read next. "So please don't change her name," the note requested of the new driver. This seemed like an odd thing to ask a stranger, which made Kevin even more curious about why the mysterious letter was left behind. Soon enough, he would uncover the truth about the prior owners.
All the questions in his head were answered as he kept on examining the contents of the letter. "I just wanted to let you know what a special vehicle you've bought," the anonymous writer wrote as they began to reveal more behind the car and its story.
Kevin became emotional, and a few tears slid even slid down his cheek as he sat in the car reading. "This car belonged to my mom," the letter revealed. "She passed away Feb. 25, 2015, in a house fire along with my 6-year-old daughter and my aunt." The potential new owner was blown away by the history of the sedan.
Although he learned about the unfortunate passing that happened, Kevin still had many unsettled questions. But the one that was probably the most persistent was why was the letter abandoned in the glove compartment? What was the reason the former owner wanted the new one to know all of this information?
Luckily for Kevin's curious mind, the writer of the letter didn't hold back from opening up. "The last time my mom drove this car was the day she left us." The shocking revelation elicited even more emotions in the reader. Yet still, he had many more questions about who the writer was and what happened to their mom.
The person behind those haunting words was Sabrina Archey. She was the one writing about the tragic loss of her mother, oldest daughter, and aunt. Sadly, the three of them were the ones Sabrina held nearest and dearest in her heart. Her world was crushed when they passed away.
Sabrina was at work when the tragedy had occurred. She had no idea how that one day would change her life for good. It was heartbreaking, especially because losing her closest family members was just the start of the many unfortunate events that followed...
A Series of Unfortunate Events
Losing her daughter and the two women she looked up to wasn't the only upsetting loss Sabrina had in her life at that time. Not long after the tragic passing, she was informed that her house would soon be taken away from her. It was one tragedy after the next.
In the span of a couple of days, Sabrina lost her loved one and was then left homeless. It was difficult to deal will all the pain as she switched from one shelter to the next one, especially because she still had her youngest daughter to take care of.
Despite losing nearly everything that she held close to her heart, there was still one thing Sabrina possessed that meant a great deal to her: the Ford Fusion was filled with many memories, but not just that. The vehicle also contained many trinkets from her late daughter, mother, and aunt.
For example, her late daughter's bookbag remained in the backseat of the sedan. But it wasn't just physical possessions - it was the memories that Sylvia held. And, since it was one of the few things she still had from her past life, Sabrina held on to Ford Fusion closely. But sadly, that didn't last long.
Sabrina had basically everything taken away from her, and tragically she was about to lose the only remaining connection she had to her late family members. She explained in the letter, "there was a mix-up with paperwork, and that caused the car to not be paid off by insurance."
"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," Sabrina added. Nevertheless, she didn't let the pain of her loss get her down. And it didn't take long before a glimmer of hope came through.
A Helpful Community
The financial burden of paying for three funerals started to become too difficult to manage all on her own. Sabrina was left struggling to try to find a way to pay for the memorial services. From losing her house, car, and family, it seemed like things kept piling on. But fortunately, help was on the way.
The people Sabrina grew up within her hometown were willing to lend a hand. They worked together and tried to help out financially as much as possible. Despite their numerous efforts, the total sum was still far from what Sabrina needed to cover the total funeral costs.
But there were other people who also tried to support Sabrina through her difficulties. The insurance company who were well on their way to taking the Ford Fusion away felt sympathy and attempted to resolve the issue. They saw that there were unpaid car payments that Sabrina couldn't afford.
Although they tried to help her out, they eventually were unable to. Sadly this meant that the memory-filled vehicle was removed from Sabrina's possession. But before saying her final goodbyes, she did one final sweep through the automobile. That was when she was met with revolutionary discovery.
A Final Impression
As she looked around the Ford Fusion one final time, Sabrina stumbled upon something that brought him to tears. In the backseat of the car, in the same spot that her late daughter would always sit in, was a tiny foot imprint that was left behind on the dashboard.
All of a sudden, the memories came flooding back, and she was left emotional from seeing the reminder of her late daughter. This prompted her to write a letter to the next person who would get to drive Sylvia around. She wanted to explain to them her story and also to ask one request from them before it was too late.
After opening up about her life, Sabrina started to wrap up the letter. "I'm not mad at you," she wrote to the future owner. "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."
It seemed like Sabrina had finally come to terms with saying goodbye to the special vehicle. Kevin understood that it wasn't just a car to the previous owner - it was much more than that since it was home to many memories she shared with her late family. That's why the final request didn't come as a surprise to him.
While the first thing she asked of the future owner was to continue calling the car Sylvia, that wasn't the only thing she hoped they would do. Sabrina and her late daughter shared a love for music - each time they drove around town, they blasted one specific song.
Sabrina explained, "Play it a country song, Big Green Tractor was my daughter's favorite song ever or some Lynyrd Skynyrd Freebird." She continued explaining how special the track was to her, "That song meant so much to us that I played it at their funerals."
Can't Let Go
It's no secret that the Ford Fusion had a special place in Sabrina's heart. If it were up to her, she would have never had to let it go in the first place. No matter what, Sabrina held on to the possibility that the vehicle and all its memories would find their way back to her.
But rather than let faith do its thing, she took matters into her own hands. "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," she wrote.
A Plan is Hatched
After being brought to tears from reading Sabrina's letter, Kevin made a choice to purchase the vehicle for his daughter's 16th birthday. After searching thoroughly and doing many inspections, he believed the Ford Fusion was the right fit for Jada. But he soon learned he was wrong.
Kevin couldn't get rid of the feeling that the car didn't belong to him or his daughter. He felt guilty for buying it after reading all the struggles Sabrina had gone through. And that was when he came up with a plan to potentially help out the previous owner of the car...
Searching For Sabrina
The only way Kevin could try and help Sabrina out was to first locate where she was. It didn't take long for him until he had found where she lived. Luckily for him, it was Greenup, Kentucky - just 15-minutes away from his residence near Flatwoods by car.
Finally, Kevin was ready to meet the women who had just stumbled into his life. And when the two eventually met, they both became emotional. He explained to her how much the story had moved him, how he hoped she would allow him to share the letter with his Facebook friends.
Sabrina accepted Kevin's plea, giving him permission to publicize the events she had been through. But little did she know how saying yes would cause her life to do a 360. The letter suddenly started to trend online. It didn't take long before more than 19,000 users had reacted to the post.
Kevin wasn't surprised - he knew that others would have the same emotions he did when he first came across the envelope. Many left comments, noting how they were moved by Sabrina's tragic story. They even suggested that Kevin return the vehicle to her. But things only began to happen when one user took a stand.
An Act of Kindness
One of the people who took an interest in Kevin's Facebook post was Tammi Warrington. As she read the letter herself, she was filled with a profuse amount of emotions. The stranger felt empathy for Sabrina, especially as someone who had tragically also lost a parent.
Tammi revealed to CJ Online that she had felt a great deal of sadness for Sabrina. She couldn't even imagine how much pain she must have felt after losing her daughter. But she didn't just read the story and scroll away. Instead, she felt she needed to do something to support Sabrina.
Connecting With Kevin
Because Kevin had blurred out the name of the person who signed the note, Tammi didn't know who she felt sympathy for. It was meant to keep Sabrina's identity private, but Tammi felt she needed to uncover who wrote the letter. So she reached out to the man who shared the post.
The kind stranger messaged Kevin explaining that she had a plan to help Sabrina finally reunite with the priceless car. But she couldn't do it without the new owner of the Ford Fusion. Luckily for Tammi, Kevin was happy to help. So much so, that he revealed a secret to his new friend.
Kevin confessed that he had actually already been in touch with Sabrina. And Tammi reaching out was a great opportunity for them to team up and curate a plan together. Their goal was to find a way to return the Ford Fusion to its rightful owner. But this also meant finding a new car for Jada.
After putting their heads together, Kevin and Tammi finally came up with a solution. The duo looked over the numbers and calculated that they would need a total of $12,000 dollars to get the car back to Sabrina. But now, they needed to find a way to get that kind of money.
Things were finally happening for Sabrina: She was on her way to being reunited with the car that held crucial memories from her past life. She was lucky to have Kevin and Tammi on her side because the two finally figured out a way to raise the money she needed.
They created a fundraising campaign where strangers could donate any amount of money they pleased. Unfortunately, they didn't get many donations at first. For a couple of weeks, they only raised roughly a few hundred dollars. They were started to lose hope - but then setting spectacular happened.
A Life-Changing Surprise
Tammi logged on one afternoon to discover that they had raised a surprising total of nearly $3,500 dollars. While they were still far from their expected goal, it was a lot more than they had made the previous weeks. They questioned how all of a sudden, the numbers went up. She had no idea her answer was lurking in her emails.
Thousands of individuals had sent Tammi emails explaining how they wanted to also help out Sabrina. The amount of support was shocking, but what was even more unbelievable was that the news of the fundraiser was discussed on a popular Australian TV program. Soon after, an international news station got a hold of the story.
Although they made their way onto Australian news channels, Tammi and Kevin were hoping that Sabrina's letter would find its way to American stations. If they managed to do so, they could likely raise the $12,000 dollars needed. Their dreams came true when TLC's This Is Life Live contacted Tammi.
Of course, they explained everything to the outlet. There were many questions about how Tammi knew Sabrina, what happened to Kevin and his daughter's car, etc. They soon reached out to Kevin, who was excited to explain his part of the story on TV. So much so that he planned a special announcement to reveal to viewers.
After a long journey, Kevin was finally able to return the Ford to Sabrina. Surrounded by friends and family, the original owner of the car had her dream come true. It seemed like the idea of leaving a letter behind was life-changing. The reunion was a heartfelt moment for all. But there was still one unresolved question...
Why did Kevin wait for a stranger to reach out before giving back the vehicle? Later on, he revealed to CNHI News, "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." Despite his reasoning, the cash from the fundraiser was used for more than a new car...
Sabrina had an incredibly difficult year in 2015 - from losing her closest family, to her house, and then her car. There were many financial burdens placed on her at the time, which unfortunately led to an immense amount of debt. But luckily, with all the money Kevin and Tammi raised, she was able to pay some of them off.
Sabrina's decision to leave behind a plea for help for the new owners of Sylvia led to remarkable events. After she finally got back her meaningful token of a car and cleared some of her debt, Sabrina found a new love. The couple (pictured above) officially tied the knot in 2019.
Happily Ever After
While things seemed to fall into place for Sabrina, there was still another person whose life changed thanks to the notorious note. Jada had no problem letting go of her 16th birthday gift, but that meant her father would need to look for a whole new car. Fortunately for her, Kevin was able to afford another vehicle.
The young teen came up with a sweet idea to commemorate Sabrina and the Ford Fusion. Jada named her new car Sylvia 2. Fast forward to today, though, and the birthday girl has changed a lot since the day she turned 16. Now, she is married and has two kids of her own. And we can't wait to see what comes next...