It was anything but a calm Saturday for Elianna Tory when she heard loud honking outside her Sooke home.
She couldn’t believe her eyes when she opened the front door – there, at the end of her family’s driveway, was a brand new red toy Jeep.
Two weeks before, the five-year-old was in tears after her toy Jeep was stolen after her parents left it outside overnight. Though they had owned the used toy for two years, this was one of the few times the family forgot to bring it into the garage – a seemingly innocent mistake with the worst outcome.
“When we realized it was gone, Elianna was crushed, but she had an idea,” said mom Hailey Tory. “We posted a video to Facebook asking for people to keep on the lookout for it, and within hours we were getting so many shares and requests to donate funds for a new one.”
Shortly after, Hailey received a call from Brian Hewitt, a Jeep enthusiast who runs 642 Jeeps, which brings together off-road vehicle enthusiasts in and around Sooke.
Within an hour of sharing the video on his page, the group raised more than $550, enough money to buy Elianna a new Jeep.
“I couldn’t get a word in because I was getting emotional from his kindness and generosity,” Tory said.
The duo agreed to keep it a secret until the Jeep showed up at their door, and Hewitt began searching for the prized possession – a task that proved easier said than done.
Hewitt called all the Walmart’s on the Island and various big box stores but to no avail. No one had a toy Jeep in stock. That is until he remembered he had spotted one at a car dealership earlier. He reached out to a friend at Duncan Dodge, who located a red Jeep in pristine condition in Vernon, an eight-hour drive away.
Luckily, he was able to arrange a Vernon Lordco store to cover the costs to bring the Jeep to the Island, just in time to surprise Elianna a day after her family had arrived back home from a trip to Alberta.
“The look on her face was priceless,” said Hewitt. “I’ve got kids too, and I know how much it means to be able to surprise them. My little guy has one himself, and I can only imagine how much she loves it too. It had to be done, no question about it.”
Hewitt and several off-roaders from the Facebook group met in downtown Sooke on Oct. 17 before delivering the gift with a convoy. They were accompanied by Emcon Services Inc., who led an escort with a few of their trucks.
“She was speechless,” said Tory. “At that moment, I was on the brink of crying. It was like a movie moment where you have to take a deep breath to compose yourself. She was speechless, and that’s coming from someone who never stops talking.”
Hewitt pointed out the red toy Jeep came outfitted with lights and suspension that dances to the music’s beat.
He said Elianna is now part of the Jeep family – one that he said will never leave her without a friend or a helping hand once she starts driving. Until then, the five-year-old is keeping a close eye on her beloved new toy.
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