Friends, coworkers help teacher's aide win car from Lakeland dealership

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Before sunrise, Sue Campbell was pounding the pavement. The teacher's aid at Spessard Holland Elementary would wake up at 4 a.m. to walk six miles to work.

She repeated the two-hour trek at the end of each work day.

"My car broke down. It was non-repairable. I'd gotten a ride occasionally, with my son-in-law, but his work
very often prevented him from driving me," Campbell told FOX 13 News.

For the past two years, she has been without a vehicle.

"I was a little embarrassed to ask for help and say that my car broke down," she explained.

At one point, a fellow teacher spotted her walking after school and, out of concern, she talked to Assistant Principal Tammy Cress. Cress then confronted Campbell.

"I went and questioned her, and I said, 'Are you walking to work?' She said, 'Yes,'" explained Cress. "I said, 'I don't want you walking anymore.'"

Cress connected Campbell with a fellow teacher who lived nearby. The coworker began giving her rides to and from the school. But Cress said she realized she could do more to help her friend and coworker of nine years. So last November, when she saw a contest on Facebook, she took action.

"I was looking through Facebook and Regal Automotive had a little ad, and they said that they were doing a holiday giveaway of a car," Cress recalled. "They said, 'Do you know someone in need? Are you in need?'" 

On the day after Thanksgiving, she sent a Facebook message to the Regal Lakeland dealership, explaining Campbell's story. 

Cress said she forgot about the contest until the start of January, when she got a message back that Campbell was a finalist for a free car.

"We finally had to tell her when she had to go for the interview," said Cress.

Campbell shared her story and won the contest. On Tuesday, in front of the elementary school, Regal Lakeland presented her with the keys to a 2011 Chevy Aveo.

"I was just thrilled! All the kids were outside cheering me on, and it was wonderful," said Campbell.

When other staff members found out Campbell won, they chipped in to buy her gift certificates for gas, car washes and a car seat for her grandson.

Campbell said, for her first ride, she picked up her daughter and grandson for a trip to Starbucks. She said after being on the receiving end of so much generosity, she hopes one day to pay it forward.

"I was very overwhelmed by all the attention, and just to realize how much people really care, and care about me, that's wonderful," said Campbell.

Regal Lakeland gave away a total of four cars within the last week, including one to the Polk a County Teacher of the Year.