Community donates minivan so boy won't be late to school anymore

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Saturday, March 7, 2015
Six-year-old Hunter Cmelo was shunned by school staff at lunch after being late too many times.
Nicole Garloff/ABC News

GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- After a photo of a boy being punished at lunch for being late to school went viral, the local community got together to donate a vehicle to the family so it wouldn't happen again.

Hunter Cmelo and his family pose with their new minivan and local radio host Bill Meyer.
Lisa McClease-Kelly/ABC News

Hunter Cmelo and his family pose with their new minivan and local radio host Bill Meyer. PHOTO: Lisa McClease-Kelly

According to ABC News, Hunter Cmelo's family now has a new minivan, thanks to their local community of business owners, and a local radio host who heard their story.

Hunter, 6, arrived late to Lincoln Elementary School last week because his family was having car trouble. Their Dodge Durango was not working, and too costly to repair.

"(The school has) a policy where every three tardies, you get a detention," Hunter's mother, Nicole Garloff, 25, told ABC News. "Every tardy after that, you get a detention."

When Hunter knew he was arriving late that day, Garloff said he was crying as he went in, knowing he'd receive a detention. Garloff said she was shocked when she decided to visit him at lunch that day, and took a photo of what his detention was actually like.

"He was at the first table as you walk into the cafeteria, and he was just sitting there with one of those cardboard poster partitions in front of him," Garloff said. "He wasn't tardy so many times that he deserved that.

In the video below, Superintendent John Higgins defends Lincoln Elementary's method of discipline. They have since amended their 'shunning' policy:

After posting the photo of Hunter's punishment to Facebook, the image of her son sitting alone at lunch went viral, coming to the attention of AM 1440 radio personality Bill Meyer, who motivated the community to help out this family in need.

"We see a lot of bad news, or we have a lot of problems. So seldomly do we ever get a chance to fix the root of the problem," Meyer told ABC News. "I saw the school policy as being unjust, but I saw the root of the trouble was car trouble."

Meyer reached out to Kelly's Automotive, but owner Lisa McClease-Kelly said the repairs were worth more than the car itself. That's when Rapid Repo and Collections offered to donate a 2001 Chrysler Town and Country van to the family.

Other businesses pitched in to restore the minivan, installing a new windshield, new tires and McClease-Kelly donated $1,400 in maintenance to it. Hunter's family was surprised when they came to the shop this week.

"We thought we were going there to be told that our Durango was not going to be fixable at all," Garloff said. "We were so shocked, it doesn't seem real. I'm trying to tell Hunter that this doesn't just happen to you."

McClease-Kelly has offered to give the family three free oil changes a year to keep the minivan running, and many other community members chipped in to purchase the family gas cards, and gift cards to local restaurants.

"This family never asked for the help. All they ever wanted was to change the school policy," Meyer said. "We saw a way to do a little nudge, and then everyone else came in with their time and generosity."

Garloff said Hunter hasn't been late since the family got the van.

"We're so thankful to all the people in our community that have just been so supportive," Garloff said.