GADSDEN, AL (WBRC) - A Gaston High graduate who wasn't allowed inside his own graduation because he arrived too late got a surprise from a number of family members, friends and even strangers.
A group of friends and family raised $4,700 on GoFundMe, and bought the car from Ronnie Watkins Ford in Gadsden for J.D. Pope.
Pope overcame a lot to get his diploma, including the death of his mother at a young age.
He missed graduating from Gaston High with his friends, when his older car broke down and he had to walk to the ceremony at Wallace Hall. He had no cell phone to call anyone to pick him up.
When he arrived a school resource officer didn't allow him inside because the ceremony was underway and the students were already in place. Pope says he arrived while the valedictorian was speaking.
This set of widespread outrage on Facebook, where Etowah County residents began debating a way to help him. Racheal Davenport and Candi Satterfield started a GoFundMe account to buy Pope a more reliable car. Knockerball in Gadsden announced in one of the Facebook threads they would throw him a pizza party. It was at that pizza party Saturday where Pope was presented the keys to a 2007 Ford Focus.
It wasn't a total surprise since Pope had already signed the vehicle title, but he was still overwhelmed when he saw the car for the first time.
"It feels great because, like, I'm just glad I got these people in the community behind me. I'm glad I got all these people - all these friends, and family, stuff like that - I'm glad I got 'em behind me," Pope told WBRC.
Local radio stations - 99.1 and 99.3 The Vibe - gave him tickets to take his whole family to the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.
Pope was given the difference between the amount raised and the actual cost of the car. Davenport said she will cover the cost of his car tag.
Pope plans to get a degree from Gadsden State Community College and hopes to own his own electrical or heating and cooling business one day.