A young Alabama college student who lost his home in Hurricane Katrina was gifted a new car after he walked 20 miles to make it on time for his first day at a new job. Walter Carr broke down in tears when Luke Marklin, the CEO of Bellhops, handed over the set of keys to a 2014 Ford Escape.
Marklin was so touched by the story of his new employee’s dedication to work that he drove his own barely-used car over from Tennessee to surprise the student.
Carr set off at midnight from Homewood for the 20-mile journey on Friday after his car broke down right before his first day at the moving company.
He had made it to Pelham at 4 am when police officer Mark Knighten saw him walking on the side of the road and asked if he was okay. Carr told the officer that he was walking to work. Knighten was so astonished by his story that he and two other officers bought him breakfast at Whataburger.
Knighten and officers Klint Rhodes and Carl Perkinson then took Carr to a church so he could be in a safe place before it was time to go to work, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
When officer Scott Duffey went to pick Carr up in the morning, he was already walking to work again. Duffey picked up the student and drove him to the house of Jenny Lamey, who was moving with her family that day.
He told the couple about Carr’s incredible story, revealing how he walked all night to get to his very first day on the job at Lamey’s house. ‘You could tell how the officer told us this story that he had complete admiration for Walter, and by my reaction, he could tell I did too,’ Lamey wrote on Facebook.
Lamey then asked Carr if he wanted to go upstairs to nap until the rest of the crew arrived. But Carr politely declined and said ‘he could go ahead and get started’. Carr helped Lamey and her husband begin to pack up, and that’s when she learned about his incredible life story. ‘He was from New Orleans. He and his mother lost their home in Hurricane Katrina and they came and made their home in Birmingham,’ she wrote. ‘I asked him if he was tired from all that walking and he replied that he wasn’t and that he had a four-hour nap before he left at midnight.’
When the crew arrived, one member enthusiastically went up to Carr and said ‘Thanks for showing up! ‘Lamey then asked Carr to tell the crew just what he did to get there that day. ‘Walter said, “I walked”. That was it. Humble,’ she wrote. ‘I asked him to share a little more and when he did, the crew was in awe of him too!’ ‘I don’t know that Walter would have shared if I hadn’t asked him to.’ Lamey was so touched by Carr’s perseverance and dedication that she posted about his story on Facebook, where it has been shared more than 1,000 times.
She also started a GoFundMe campaign for Carr to help with his vehicle troubles. ‘I just can’t tell you how touched I was by Walter and his journey,’ she wrote. ‘He is humble and kind and cheerful and he has big dreams!’
‘He is hardworking and tough. I can’t imagine how many times on that lonely walk down 280 in the middle of the night did he want to turn back.’
‘But he walked until he got here. I am in total awe of this young man.’ So was Marklin, who drove down from Tennessee and told Carr that he wanted to get coffee to personally thank him.
Instead, the CEO surprised Carr, who hopes to join the US Marines, with the Ford Escape. Carr became emotional as Marklin gave him the keys and could only say, ‘Seriously?’ Lamey and the Pelham officers who helped Carr were also on hand to witness the sweet surprise. ‘I am honestly blown away by him,’ Marklin told the paper. ‘Everything he did that day is exactly who we are – heart and grit. So far, he’s batting 1,000.’ Carr, who will get his associate’s degree from Lawson State in December, said he promised himself he was going to get to his first day on the job ‘one way or another’.
‘This was the first job in a long time to give me an opportunity to get hired,’ he said. ‘I wanted to show them I got the dedication.’ ‘I want people to know this – no matter what the challenge is, you can break through the challenge,’ he added. ‘Nothing is impossible unless you make it impossible. You can do anything you set your mind to.’