When Kevin Duke bought a used car for his daughter's 16th birthday, he had no idea how much it would change his life. After finding a mysterious letter in the glove compartment, he and his family were taken on an emotional ride.
Most teens are especially excited about their 16th birthday: not only do they get their driver's license, but they get to get out onto the road. Those lucky enough may even be gifted with their very first car.
Look no further than Jada Duke. Back in January 2015, the teen's sweet sixteen was right around the corner. So, her dad began to search for the perfect vehicle to gift her. He browsed online and even drove around town. But it wasn't until a customer at his construction site gave him advice that he found what he was looking for.
Kevin was told that there might be a great Ford Fusion available for purchase for his daughter's birthday. As a father concerned for his child's safety, he wanted to be sure the sedan would be the perfect match. He was eager to check it out for himself and take the vehicle out for a spin.
It seemed like Kevin was very meticulous, as he looked over the car at least 6 different times! But as he searched the ins and outs of the Ford, he stumbled across something strange in the glove compartment. Little did he know how this finding would turn his world upside down.
An Unusual Discovery
Kevin Duke's inspection led him to an unusual discovery. He explained during an interview with CNHI News: "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."
When buying a used car, the former owner's belongings are typically cleaned out. Yet, this envelope was forgotten and left behind. So, when Kevin found it, he was intrigued to read the contents inside. That was before he knew how emotional the discovery would make him…
As Kevin opened the envelope, he came across a touching keepsake. A handwritten letter suddenly 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."
As he read on, he learned more about the Ford Fusion's past owner, "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…"
Before Kevin had ever found the mysterious letter, he had examined the car from top to bottom. He'd noticed that it wasn't in the best condition, which, of course, is expected when buying used vehicles. There were numerous indentations and gashes throughout the Ford. And he was about to find out why…
The questions he had about the damage were all answered by the writer of the strange letter. "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…" the note read. But it seemed like there was a lot more to the story here.
The mysterious envelope uncovered many facts about the used car, such as the name the former owners gave it. "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 message continued with a surprising request: "So please don't change her name," the writer pleaded. Kevin couldn't understand why this person would ask the new owner such a strange request? Later, though, he would discover the devastating truth about what really happened to Silvia's former owners.
The Tragic Revelation
As he continued reading the contents of the letter, suddenly Kevin was brought to tears. "I just wanted to let you know what a special vehicle you've bought." The anonymous writer began to open the lid on the tragedy that had happened to the former owner of the car.
"This car belonged to my mom," the note continued. "She passed away Feb. 25, 2015, in a house fire along with my 6-year-old daughter and my aunt." Kevin was in disbelief. He had no idea just how much history this seemingly simple Ford Fusion had held.
More Questions Emerge
While the revelation about the tragic death made Kevin emotional, he still was unsure as to why the envelope was left in the car. What did all of this have to do with the possible new owners of the Ford? There were still so many unanswered questions.
But of course, the writer made sure to explain it all to whoever may be reading the letter. "The last time my mom drove this car was the day she left us," they revealed. This had Kevin pondering over who might have been the past owner and where were they now? What was really going on here?
Sure enough, the person who had written the haunting letter was Sabrina Archey. She was the one who tragically lost her mom, eldest daughter, and aunt - the three closest people she had in her life. Her mother and aunt were always there for her when she needed them, and her daughter had meant the world to her.
When they passed away, Sabrina had no idea what was happening as she had been at work all day. But she soon learned the devastating news that would send her into the toughest days of her life. Losing her family led her to deal with many horrific events.
More Tragedy Strikes
The unfortunate passing away of her loved ones wasn't the only painful loss Sabrina had to endure at the time. Sadly, Sabrina was about to experience even more loss in her life. She soon lost her home - leaving her both homeless and without her supportive family.
The former Ford owner's life had turned upside down in a matter of days. She continued to struggle as she moved from shelter to shelter, trying to find a steady living situation. Bu Sabrina wasn't completely alone, as she still had her youngest daughter with her.
A Car Full of Memories
While most of the things she cherished were long gone, there were still a few items that Sabrina had that she deeply cared about. Inside the car where the letter was found by Kevin, there were a few possessions left by her late family members, which she clung onto.
Inside the sedan, Sabrina found her late daughter's backpack still there, as if she'd never left. But the Ford Fusion was actually her late mother's, and it held various special memories shared between the entire family. Keeping the car meant the world to her. But unfortunately, another tragedy soon struck.
“I’m Losing This Last Link I Have”
After losing nearly everything in her life, the last piece Sabrina had of her late mom was suddenly taken away: "there was a mix-up with paperwork, and that caused the car to not be paid off by insurance," she wrote. It was another devastating blow Sabrina had to endure.
"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," she wrote. Yet somehow, despite all the pain, Sabrina continued to have hope. And soon enough, she was given something that uplifted her spirits.
Help From The Community
When the funeral costs of her late mother, aunt, and daughter began rolling in, she was left wondering how she was going to pay for all of it. With no home and no car, it seemed like there was no way out. But luckily for Sabrina, she wasn't really alone...
The people from her town made sure to try and support her as much as they possibly could. They all came together and tried to aid in the funeral costs. Yet still, even after everyone chipped in, they were still far off from what was needed to be paid.
The funeral payments weren't the only financial struggles Sabrina was dealing with. The car payments were still needed, and if she couldn't provide them, her Ford would be taken away. The insurance company felt her pain and tried to help out as much as they could.
Ultimately, neither Sabrina nor the insurance company managed to make it work, and the Ford was taken away. But before it was out of her possession for good, Sabrina decided to take one more look around the memory-filled vehicle. And it was at this very moment that she stumbled across something special.
A Lasting Impression
As Sabrina sat in her car and took in all the bittersweet memories before they were gone for good, something caught her eyes: She had come across a small foot imprint on the dashboard. It was the seat her late daughter used to sit in, and her small foot had left a mark there.
Sure enough, the painful reminder of her child caused Sabrina to break down to tears. And it was then that she decided she needed to leave a letter to the future owner of the car. Not only was she going to let them know what had happened to her, but she also had one last request before she'd say goodbye for good.
The end of the letter was slowly approaching, and an emotional Kevin read the part directly intended for the car's new driver: "I'm not mad at you," Sabrina wrote. "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 sounded like Sabrina had finally made peace about parting with her Ford. She wanted Kevin to know how it was more than just a car as it held all the priceless memories she had with her family. It really was the last piece she had of them. So, she made sure to give him clear instructions.
One Last Request
Sabrina had already asked the person reading the letter to keep Sylvia's name - but she still had one more request. Music meant the world to both her and her daughter, so she requested that a few specific songs be played in the car at least one time.
Kevin read: "Play it a country song, Big Green Tractor was my daughter's favorite song ever, or some Lynyrd Skynyrd Freebird." She further revealed why these tracks were so meaningful: "That song meant so much to us that I played it at their funerals."
Never Letting Go
Clearly, the vehicle and all its memories meant the world to Sabrina. It was very hard for her to say goodbye, yet sadly it was out of her control. So it's not so surprising to learn that she still hung on to hope that the Ford Fusion would eventually make its way back into her life.
Sabrina finished the letter: "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."
Sure enough, Kevin was touched by Sabrina's emotional letter. And after further inspection, he decided to purchase her used car. After all, he had finally found the perfect car for his daughter. He couldn't wait to surprise Jada on her upcoming sixteenth birthday. Or so he thought...
The truth was that he couldn't shake the guilty feeling that the letter had left him with. Kevin was touched by the contents that he read, and then some. He felt like he needed to do something to help, especially after hearing what Sabrina had endured. And so, he decided to do something about it.
Kevin knew that he needed to contact Sabrina and let her know that Sylvia had made its way into the hands of good people. As he began his search, he learned that she lived in Greenup, Kentucky. As fate would have it, that was only a short 15-minute drive away from his home near Flatwoods.
It was pretty easy to locate the former owner of the car. And as Kevin and Sabrina came face to face, emotions were as high as ever. The inspired father was so touched by her story, that he had a request for Sabrina: would it be okay to publicize her letter on Facebook so others could help as well?
As Sabrina said yes to Kevin's request, she had no idea how much it would change her life. After posting the picture online, it quickly became flooded with responses and messages from Facebook users. It received nearly 19,000 reactions, including one from an arguably well-known website, Love What Matters.
Just as Kevin had predicted, everyone who came across the letter was in awe of the story and Sabrina's bravery. They even all agreed that Kevin should give the car back to its rightful owner. And while most users sympathized, there was one person in specific who decided to do something about it.
A Stranger's Kindness
Tammi Warrington was one of the many users who came across Kevin's post. As she read the letter, she felt overwhelming sympathy for Sabrina. As a mother herself who also went through the pain of losing a parent, she became emotional over this stranger's story.
Tammi couldn't fathom the pain Sabrina must have felt over losing her child. She explained to CJ Online how sad she was for Sabrina. She believed that she had the power to somehow help and was motivated to do something. So, she quickly started to think of ways to do just that.
Unfortunately, Kevin had blurred out Sabrina's signature from the bottom of the letter when he shared it with Facebook. So Tammi had no idea who wrote it or how she was going to contact them. The closest thing she had to reach the original writer was by messaging the person who shared the letter: Kevin.
And that is exactly what she did. Tammi wrote to him and explained how she wanted to help Sabrina get the Ford Fusion back in her possession. And, of course, Kevin responded to the kind gesture with eagerness. He even let Tammi in on a little secret.
A Plan is Hatched
Kevin revealed to Tammi that he had actually already been speaking to Sabrina about the situation. He explained that he would love to join forces with her so that they could help get the car back to its original owner. Of course, this meant Jada was in need of a new vehicle.
Together Kevin and Tammi devised a plan and figured out what the costs would be to get the car back to Sabrina. After crunching the numbers of the credit cards and processing fees, they learned that $12,000 dollars were needed. With more brainstorming, they thought of an idea to raise the funds.
The Fundraising Campaign
Not only did they need money for a new car but also for Sabrina to finally get back what she had been waiting for: the car that held all her memories with her late loved ones. Kevin and Tammi came up with the idea to create a fundraising campaign to raise all the money they needed.
Regrettably, in the beginning, they weren't seeing as much progress as they had hoped for. For the first few weeks that the fundraiser was open, they had only managed to get in a few hundred dollars from various supporters. But little did they know that the wait would be worth it in the end.
A Pleasant Surprise
One day, they checked the balance of the fundraising account and noticed that there was a whopping total of $3,500 dollars. They were stunned by how much had been raised. Tammi wondered how this could have happened, so she checked her email... and that was when she found her answer.
Tammi's inbox was flooded with numerous messages from hundreds of people reaching out to support Sabrina. She soon realized that the story and the fundraising campaign had somehow made their way onto an Australian TV program. It later reached news outlets around the world and received even greater recognition.
After reaching Australian audiences, they had hoped that soon enough, Sabrina's story would make headlines in America. After all, that's exactly what they needed if they were going to reach their goal of $12,000 dollars. Luckily it didn't take long before TLC's This Is Life Live reached out to Tammi.
They had many questions regarding Sabrina and Tammi's friendship, as well as everything that happened with Kevin and his daughter. When Kevin heard the news, he was excited to be brought on television to tell his side of the story - especially since he had planned something that audiences wouldn't forget.
Reunited At Last
Joined by family, friends, and audiences, the moment they had all been waiting for finally happened: Kevin was able to gift the Ford back to its rightful owner, Sabrina. It was a beautiful and inspiring moment for everyone involved. Yet still, there was one question left that remained unanswered.
How come Kevin didn't give it back when he first saw the letter? He later explained 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." Whatever the case may have been, the money he raised went to more than just the car...
Where Is She Now?
When Sabrina's life came crashing down in 2015, she had lost more than just her family, home, and car. She was having troubles financially and gathered up numerous amounts of debt. Luckily for her, the fundraiser money was used to help her clear those payments.
Kevin discovering the envelope in the Ford Fusion helped Sabrina's life in ways unimaginable. But after getting Slyvia back and paying off her debts, where is she now? Well, just a few years after her reunion with Sylvia, Sabrina met a guy, and the two got married (above).
A Happy Ending
Things all seemed to have worked out for Sabrina. But where did that leave Jada after she had to give her birthday gift back? Fortunately for the 16-year-old, her father was financially stable enough to purchase her a new car that was fit for a new driver.
But that's not where this story ends: as a sweet way of honoring Sabrina and her family, Jada decided to name her new car Slyvia 2. Today, she is happily married with two kids of her own. And while she's come a long way since her 16th birthday, we can't wait to see what adventures await Sylvia 2...