Mom Sells Her Baby’s Crib And Receives A Heartwarming Surprise

People can find anything at garage sales. When an elderly couple went to their neighbor’s sale, they found a baby crib that they could repurpose. But this crib came with a troubling story, and the couple managed to turn it around in a clever way. Read how a stranger unexpectedly changed a mother’s life forever.

Meet The Kumpulas

It was an average day for Gerald and Lorene Kumpula. The retired couple lived in Cokato, MN, and spent time with their 15 children and grandkids.

The Kumpulas smile for a photo together.
CreepyWorld/YouTube
CreepyWorld/YouTube

Gerald, who was 75 years old, was also an upcycler who repurposed secondhand furniture.

Going To A Life-Changing Garage Sale

In spring 2014, the couple heard about a garage sale in their local neighborhood.

couple dressed warmly outside
Photo Credit: CreepyWorld / Youtube
Photo Credit: CreepyWorld / Youtube

They decided to visit it and search for some new furniture to repurpose, but they had no idea what tragic story was in store for them.

Nothing Seemed Amiss Until…

Gerald and Lorene arrived at the garage sale run by a young woman. Along with old household items, the woman offered baby clothes, children’s toys, and a crib.

The woman who ran the garage sale is interviewed.
Did You Know ?/YouTube
Did You Know ?/YouTube

Although they had no need for children’s furniture, Gerald knew that he could make it into something else.

…They Met A Mysterious Seller

Neither of the Kumpulas suspected that something was amiss. Many parents sell their old baby furniture and clothes when the child outgrows them.

selfie of seller close up black eyeline
Photo Credit: CreepyWorld / YouTube
Photo Credit: CreepyWorld / YouTube

But something seemed off about this seller.

She Was Hesitant To Sell Her Crib

Gerald was interested in the crib, which was the largest piece of furniture that the woman offered. But when he spoke to her about it, something seemed off.

A white crib is seen in a baby boy's room.
Sidekix Media/Unsplash
Sidekix Media/Unsplash

“She was kind of hesitant, I knew that maybe she didn’t want to sell it,” Gerald later said. “Yet she did.”

Lorene Couldn’t Sit By Knowing

After purchasing the $2 crib, Gerald packed it into his truck and drove home.

selfie of the seller, yellow lighting
Photo Credit: CreepyWorld / YouTube
Photo Credit: CreepyWorld / YouTube

All seemed well, but during the drive, his wife Lorene rehashed the sad conversation that she had.

In The Car, Gerald’s Wife Revealed The Sad Story

While Gerald was examining the crib, Lorene scoured through the baby clothes the woman was selling.

An elderly man drives a car.
jonathanjudmaier/Pixabay
jonathanjudmaier/Pixabay

Lorene made small talk with the seller and asked how old her son was, since she no longer needed the clothes.

A Great Loss

But her answer was not what Lorene expected. The woman replied, “He passed away in July.” She, her fiancé, and her seven-year-old daughter were still processing the death of her infant son.

waiting room with women in it
Photo Credit: CreepyWorld / YouTube
Photo Credit: CreepyWorld / YouTube

Despite her grief, she told Lorene the whole story.

Valerie Watts Had A Hopeful Future

The woman’s name was Valarie Watts. At 28 years old, she became pregnant with her second child, and was fully prepared for him. She bought the proper crib, baby clothes, toys, and books.

Valarie Watts is pictured in a warm coat by a lake.
CreepyWorld/YouTube
CreepyWorld/YouTube

They Wanted To Wait To Start A Family

Valarie got engaged to her fiancé, Jimi Hamblin, during the same year as the pregnancy announcement. But the couple decided to wait until after the birth to get married.

family picture eating breakfast
Photo Credit: CreepyWorld / YouTube
Photo Credit: CreepyWorld / YouTube

Their new son–whom they named Noah–came first. Although her pregnancy seemed healthy, Valarie noticed a few problems near the final term.

But Issues Began Late In The Pregnancy

Near the final days of her pregnancy, Valarie noticed less fetal movement.

A pregnant woman puts a hand on her stomach.
Mikhail TereshchenkoTASS via Getty Images
Mikhail TereshchenkoTASS via Getty Images

Although the baby’s lack of activity was concerning, she was only a week away from her estimated labor. She had no time to go to the doctor.

Waiting And Praying

“All week, I knew–he wasn’t moving as much,” Valarie later told Fox 9 News.

delivery of baby
Photo Credit: Jonathan Borba / Pexels
Photo Credit: Jonathan Borba / Pexels

“I was very nervous.” After contemplating what to do, she and Jimi agreed that they had to wait until delivery and hope for the best.

A Tragic Delivery

On July 22, 2013, Valarie went into labor. After a long, arduous time in the delivery room, Noah had to be delivered through a cesarean section.

Valarie Watts (right) is pictured next to her ultrasound.
Did You Know ?/YouTube
Did You Know ?/YouTube

Finally, the couple could see the baby. But they heard heartbreaking news.

Born Without A Heartbeat

Before Valarie could even hold Noah, the doctors told her that he had no heartbeat. He was stillborn. Valarie and Jimi could still hold their child, but he was not alive.

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Unsplash/Preillumination Seth
Unsplash/Preillumination Seth

The parents were absolutely devastated.

How Did This Happen?

Doctors believe that the fetus experienced a complication near the end of Valarie’s pregnancy.

An ultrasound shows a baby.
Jeff Overs/BBC News & Current Affairs via Getty Images
Jeff Overs/BBC News & Current Affairs via Getty Images

According to them, the umbilical cord had either tangled or constricted at some point in the final term.

A Rare But Fatal Condition

The umbilical cord is a fetus’s “supply line” which provides everything from nutrients to oxygen. With a lack of oxygen, Noah could not survive.

black and white selfie of the couple
Photo Credit: CreepyWorld / YouTube
Photo Credit: CreepyWorld / YouTube

This occurrence is rare; umbilical cord accidents make up only 10% of stillbirths, according to the Stillbirth Collaborative Research Network.

Initially, She Did Not Want To Sell The Crib

Noah’s death was traumatic for Valarie and her entire family. She grieved him every day, and she did not want to let go of the unused baby supplies.

Valarie appears hesitant as she contemplates.
Did You Know ?/YouTube
Did You Know ?/YouTube

Even so, she knew that she could. not hang on to them forever.

It Took Courage

In May 2014, she gathered enough strength to sell them through a yard sale. But she still felt emotionally attached to Noah’s belongings, especially the crib.

Valarie Watts is pictured next to her old crib.
Did You Know ?/YouTube
Did You Know ?/YouTube

Gerald had sensed this, even though he did not know the garage sale’s true purpose.

Why She Sold It To Gerald

Although Valarie did not want to sell the white crib, she changed her mind after listening to Gerald. He told Valarie that he wanted to repurpose the crib into another piece of furniture, possibly a headboard.

Valarie Watts speaks during an interview.
CreepyWorld/YouTube
CreepyWorld/YouTube

This gave Valarie some emotional reinforcement and a feeling of closure. “I was a little bit at peace with it because he’d be making something nice,” she later told TODAY. After receiving two dollars, Valarie’s unused crib was gone.

Sadly, The Kumpulas Related To This Experience

When Lorene told Gerald this story on their drive home, Gerald resonated with it. Not only did he feel sorry for Valarie, but he had some empathy, too. He and Lorene had experienced the same scenario.

A white crib is set up against a wall with photos above it.
ErikaWittlieb/Pixabay
ErikaWittlieb/Pixabay

Gerald and Lorene’s first granddaughter was also stillborn. Many years ago, they held her and grieved for the life that could have been. The couple has dozens of grandchildren now, but they never forgot the pain that Valarie was also going through.

They Decided To Do Something About It

Instead of just feeling sad for Valarie, the Kumpula couple decided to do something for her. They understood how hard it must have been for her to give up the crib. And since they were retired, they had plenty of time to help a mother in need.

Gerald Kumpula works in his workshop.
CreepyWorld/YouTube
CreepyWorld/YouTube

Gerald concluded that he should transform the crib into something for Valarie instead of for himself. But what could he make that would ease her grief instead of heightening it?

But What Could He Make?

Initially, Gerald was going to make a headboard out of the crib. But seeing the repurposed crib every night might not help Valarie and Jimi, he thought. So he decided to transform it into a bench.

White wood planks lie on the floor with sawdust.
Sally-Ann Norman/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images
Sally-Ann Norman/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

“An unused crib is a sad reminder,” he explained while talking to TODAY. “A bench is more of a memorial. It’s part of that sad happening, yet it’s not a reminder like a crib would be, an empty crib.”

From Lost Hope To A Memorial

When he returned home, Gerald brought the crib to his work desk. His goal was to transform the crib without making it unrecognizable. For instance, he did not paint over the white wood.

The newly-made bench's details are seen from the bottom.
CreepyWorld/YouTube
CreepyWorld/YouTube

Instead, he took the beans of the crib and turned them into the chair’s backing. He then used the scalloped edges to accent the bottom of the chair. Although it could only fit one person, it was still big enough to make an impact.

A Surprise Gift

Only a week after they bought the crib, the Kumpulas returned to Valarie’s home. The grieving mother had not expected them to return, much less with the crib. But the crib was no longer; it was now a memorial bench, an unexpected gift from strangers.

The bench made from the crib has a baby blanket and blue teddy bear.
Cindy Shipley/Pinterest
Cindy Shipley/Pinterest

Valarie could not hold back her tears when she saw the bench. It’s beautiful,” she later told TODAY.com. “[When I saw it,] I thought, ‘There’s still kind people out there.’”

Much Better Than A Crib

The bench’s effect was exactly what Gerald had predicted. For Valarie, looking at the bench felt much better than seeing an empty crib. Before, it was a sad reminder of her son left discarded in her garage. But it had gained new life thanks to the Kumpulas.

crying photo of the mother
Photo Credit: CreepyWorld / YouTube
Photo Credit: CreepyWorld / YouTube

“I’m overwhelmed with joy that it’s not just sitting somewhere unused,” Valarie said. “Now I can sit in it, hold his bear, think about him if I need to.”

Gerald Would Not Accept Payment

When Valarie received the bench, she insisted that she should pay Gerald back. But he, along with his wife, refused to accept money. He transformed that crib solely from the desire to do something good.

Gerald Kumpula is interviewed in his workshop.
CreepyWorld/YouTube
CreepyWorld/YouTube

“It’s just nice to be able to do something for someone,” Gerald told TODAY. “It’s nice to help people.” His week of selfless work reinvigorated the Watts family and helped them heal. Valarie already felt a close bond with this stranger.

Inspiring People Everywhere

Since Gerald’s actions were so inspiring, it is no surprise that the story caught on. News outlets, from Fox to TODAY to Newsner, reported on Valarie’s story. Thousands of people felt touched by Gerald’s actions.

Valarie and her fiance Jimi make a heart from their hands against the sunset.
CreepyWorld/YouTube
CreepyWorld/YouTube

Amy Vickers, who transforms wedding gowns into “angel gowns” for women who have lost babies, told Huffpost why the bench is so important. “It doesn’t take the hurt away from them,” she said, “but it just lets them know that we feel like their baby’s life means something,”

It Now Sits In The Watts Living Room

Today, Gerald’s bench sits in Watts’ living room. It is decorated with Noah’s blanket and teddy bear. Next to it, there is a bookshelf with Noah’s handprints, footprints, photos, and ashes.

The bench made from the white crib is finished and in Watts's living room.
Sarah Taylor/Pinterest
Sarah Taylor/Pinterest

Valarie and her family have an area to sit and feel connected to Noah. Even Nevaeh, Valarie’s seven-year-old daughter, gets to use the bench because it’s low and small enough. Instead of being a waste of space, the bench is now something that the Watts can keep forever.

Bringing Awareness To The Issue

The inspiring story of Valarie and Gerald also brought awareness to stillbirth, which affects one in every 160 births. In the United States, 24,000 babies are stillborn every year.

Noah's footprints are displayed on a shelf.
Did You Know ?/YouTube
Did You Know ?/YouTube

“It’s a reminder that other women in her shoes may be suffering far too silently and deserve support,” Maressa Brown wrote on The Stir. Valarie’s story is not only inspiring, but it offers some hope for other families who experience the same thing. Perhaps we will see more crib benches in the future.

For Valarie, Hope For The Future

Although Valarie experienced a traumatic loss, she has hope for the future. She married Jimi in autumn 2014, and she still takes care of her daughter and babysits on the side.

Valarie Watts sits in the bench made from Noah's crib.
CreepyWorld/YouTube
CreepyWorld/YouTube

“In a way, when I’m sitting in [the bench], I feel comforted by his presence, even though he’s not here,” Valarie said. “It’s like a peaceful, it’s-OK type feeling. When I feel down, I can sit on the bench and I feel OK, everything’s going to be OK.”

A Typical Sweet Sixteen Present

When a kid turns 16 years old, they are finally able to get their driver’s license. As a result, many lucky kids often receive a car for their 16th birthday. Jada Duke was one of those kids.

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Sabrina Duke/Facebook
Sabrina Duke/Facebook

Her father Kevin bought a used car a few weeks ahead of her birthday, checking if it ran properly and fixing it up before he gave it to her. That’s when he encountered something unexpected.

The Perfect Starter Car

In January 2015, Kevin Duke began searching for a car for his daughter Jada, who would be turning 16 the following March. After he mentioned it, a customer at his construction job told him about a car that was for sale.

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Tino Rossini/Flickr
Tino Rossini/Flickr

“She told me that she had seen a car that would be a perfect starter car for my daughter,” he told CNHI News. The car in question was a used silver Ford Fusion.

It Needed A Little Maintenance

“The brakes squeaked a little bit, but it was a good car,” Duke said after taking it for a test drive. A few days later, he bought the car and took it home for some maintenance to make sure the car was safe for his daughter.

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TLC/YouTube
TLC/YouTube

He’d gone through every nook and cranny of the car at least five times but still felt the need to check again.

Something He Overlooked

Kevin Duke opened the top-dash compartment for the sixth time. He recalled, “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.”

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Kevin Duke/Facebook
Kevin Duke/Facebook

Curious, Duke sat in the car and opened the envelope. “I sat right there and read it, and bawled like a baby,” he recalled.

Important Information For The New Owner

The envelope was addressed to “New Car Owner” and also noted “Important Info Inside.” Duke likely thought that it might detail any maintenance concerns he should have about the car but once he read the envelope’s contents, he was immediately flabbergasted.

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Kevin Duke/Facebook
Kevin Duke/Facebook

The envelope contained a hand-written letter that turned out to reveal the car’s colored past. As Duke poured over the letter, he could not believe what he was reading.

A Car With A Lot Of Special Memories

“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,” the letter read. When it comes to used vehicles, most people are often only concerned with how much longer it will last under their ownership.

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Kevin Duke/Facebook
Kevin Duke/Facebook

But as Duke continued to read the letter, he got a real glimpse into the life that his daughter’s car had before he bought it.

They Took The Car On Many Adventures

“My family filled this car with lots of love and other sticky things. 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,” the letter stated.

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Christian Flores/Flickr
Christian Flores/Flickr

In reading the letter, Kevin Duke also came to learn why the car was no longer with this person who obviously loved it so much.

The Car Came With A Few Kinks

Indeed, the person who wrote the letter did take a moment to mention some kinks that came with the car. “The dent on the rear drivers side fender and the dent in the passenger side door are where my daughter learned to ride… and crash… her bike,” the letter read.

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Tim Dorr/Flickr
Tim Dorr/Flickr

It’s plausible that Duke thought back to when he taught his own daughter how to ride a bike and didn’t mind so much about the dents on her first car.

Her Name Was Sylvia

The car also had a name: Sylvia. “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. So please don’t change her name,” the letter said.

This-Is-Life-Live-Ended-With-These-Touching-Moments-0-36-screenshot-89102
TLC/YouTube
TLC/YouTube

As he kept reading, Duke would learn more about Sylvia and the memories she made with this unknown family.

The Tragedy That Took The Owner’s Life

“I just wanted to let you know what a special vehicle you’ve bought. This car belonged to my mom. She passed away Feb. 25, 2015 in a house fire along with my 6 year old daughter and my aunt. The last time my mom drove this car was the day she left us,” the letter read.

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TLC/YouTube
TLC/YouTube

Kevin was floored to learn that the car was connected to such a tragedy. He wondered why the car was given up if it had so much meaning.

The Woman Who Wrote The Letter

The letter was written by a woman named Sabrina Archey. Archey was at work when her family home burst into flames and took her mom, daughter, and aunt along with it. Not only did Archey have to deal with the grief of losing some of the most important people of her life but she also was faced with the repercussions of the tragedy.

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TLC/YouTube
TLC/YouTube

Suddenly homeless, Archey also still had to care for her other surviving daughter, who was not at home during the fire.

The Car Was All She Had Left Of Her Mom And Daughter

After the fire, all Archey had left was her mother’s car and a backpack her late daughter had left inside of it. Despite what had happened, the car was still repossessed.

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TLC/YouTube
TLC/YouTube

“There was a mix up with paperwork and that’s 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,” Archey wrote.

She Couldn’t Prevent It From Getting Repossessed

Despite a supportive community that came together to help her with funeral costs, Archey was still left with a whole plethora of financial burdens to take care of on her own. Even though the company that financed the car tried to help Archey as best they could, in the end they had to take it off her hands.

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@Coco_Jenell/Twitter
@Coco_Jenell/Twitter

Before the car was picked up, Archey went through the car one last time to find anything that was left behind.

The Moment She Had To Write The Letter

While searching the car one last time, Archey noticed a faint imprint of a child-sized shoe on the dashboard where her late daughter used to sit. The moment she saw it, a flood of memories and tears suddenly came pouring out.

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Kevin Duke/Facebook
Kevin Duke/Facebook

That was when Archey was moved to write the letter to whomever would turn out to be the new owner of her mother’s Ford Fusion. Little did she know, the car wouldn’t be going that far.

She Wasn’t Bitter About Letting Go

Despite having to give up her mother’s car against her will, Archey expressed no hard feelings towards its new owner. In her letter, she clarified, “I’m not mad at you. 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.”

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TLC/YouTube
TLC/YouTube

At the end of her letter, Archey did make a plea.

She Had One Plea For The New Owner

She continued, “Life happened in this car. Love, joy, and adventure was had in this car. So now that it’s yours, please remember it isn’t just a car. It’s a memory. This car with all its quirks is the last piece of my family. Be nice to it.”

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TLC/YouTube
TLC/YouTube

For Archey, her family’s memory lived on in that car that was so hard to let go. But soon, things would come full circle.

She Wanted Them To Enjoy It As Much As Her Family Did

Archey was surely heartbroken to let the car go but she sincerely hoped its new owner would enjoy it the same way her family did. She even made this special suggestion: “Play it a country song, Big Green Tractor was my daughter’s favorite song ever, or some Lynyrd Skynrd Freebird. That song meant so much to us that I played it at their funerals.”

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Sabrina Archey/Facebook
Sabrina Archey/Facebook

She really wanted to let the car’s new owner know just how important it was.

She Wanted The Car Back

Archey knew that Sylvia might not even stay with her new owner for long. In the letter, she added, “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.”

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TLC/YouTube
TLC/YouTube

Reading that bit, Duke felt torn over the car he had just bought his daughter.

Duke Reached Out To Archey After Reading The Letter

Archey was from Greenup, Kentucky and Kevin Duke lived only 15 minutes away in Flatwoods. After reading the letter, Duke was so filled with emotion that he knew he had to find Archey to let her know her mother’s Ford was now in good hands.

This-Is-Life-Live-Ended-With-These-Touching-Moments-1-43-screenshot-35579
TLC/YouTube
TLC/YouTube

Luckily, finding Archey wasn’t too difficult. Because of how moved he was, Duke asked her permission to share her letter on Facebook. That’s when things really took a turn.

The Letter Went Viral Online

After Duke shared the heartbreaking letter on Facebook it quickly went viral, especially after it was shared by the page Love What Matters where it accumulated 19,000 reactions from people as far as Australia.

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TLC/YouTube
TLC/YouTube

Many people sympathized with Sabrina Archey’s story and believed that Duke should return the car to her. That’s when one citizen came across the story and decided to take matters into their own hands. Simply sharing the story wasn’t enough for them.

Tammi Warrington Had To Do Something

More than 800 miles away in Kansas, Tammi Warrington was utterly moved by Archey’s letter. When she read the letter, she was reportedly struck by how Archey wasn’t bitter about giving up the car. “It devastated me on her behalf,” Warrington told CJ Online.

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TLC/YouTube
TLC/YouTube

Warrington remembered when her own father passed away and how she would feel if her 5-year-old son was gone too. She remembered thinking that Archey needed to have her car back.

She Reached Out To The Original Poster

When she initially read the letter, Warrington didn’t know who had originally written it. All she had to go off of was the person who shared it, which was Kevin Duke. Warrington decided to reach out to Duke to see what she could do to help him and help return the Ford Fusion to its previous owner.

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TLC/YouTube
TLC/YouTube

She was surprised to find out that Duke had already been in touch with Archey.

She Helped Raise Money To Give The Car Back

Warrington worked with Duke to figure out how much it would cost to replace Duke’s daughter’s car so that they could return the Ford Fusion to Archey without her having to buy it back.

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TLC/YouTube
TLC/YouTube

Altogether, they determined they would need to raise $12,000 to pay taxes to give the car back to Archey, take care of credit card processing fees, and to be able to replace the car that Duke intended to give to his daughter.

They Raised Enough Money And Appeared On TV

An online fundraising campaign was set up to raise money. At first, they only managed to raise a few hundred dollars until one day, it suddenly had $3,500. Warrington checked her email to see a barrage of messages. Apparently, an Australian television ran a story about the campaign.

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TLC/YouTube
TLC/YouTube

Finally, TLC contacted Warrington to highlight Archey’s new friendship with the Duke’s on This Is Life Live. Kevin Duke only agreed to appear on TV if he got to personally return the keys to Archey.

They Were Able To Return The Car

For his part, Duke merely meant to share what he thought was an interesting story. “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,” he told CNHI News.

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Sabrina Archey/Facebook
Sabrina Archey/Facebook

Eventually, Sylvia was returned to Archey, who felt so good to be able to feel where her mom used to hold the steering wheel. Kevin Duke was also still able to give his daughter a car. Fittingly, she named it Sylvia 2.