Bowers, a resident of Middle Arm, was taking her 16-year-old son Aaron out for his second-ever driving lesson after receiving his permit in late April.
The lesson didn’t go as planned.
“My son was getting ready to come to a stop when he said ‘Mom, there’s no brakes!’” said Bowers. “He put the brake to the floor and couldn’t stop. Then I smelled smoke, and saw smoke coming out from under the hood.”
Aaron managed to put the family’s 2003 Kia Rio into park. He and his mother scrambled out of the car, popped the hood, and saw the engine engulfed in flames.
“He took it a lot better than I did – I went into panic mode,” said Bowers.
Bowers ran to a nearby house for help. Luckily Laurie Robinson was at home, fire extinguisher at the ready in the porch, right next to his boots.
“(Robinson) doesn’t know me from Adam, but I ran in there screaming ‘my car is on fire!’ I’m sure he and his wife got the shock of their lives.”
Robinson grabbed the fire extinguisher and sprang into action. By the time the fire department arrived on the scene, he had nearly extinguished the fire. A firefighter told Bowers the fire probably started in the wiper motor, prior to the brake failure.
The damage to the car was irreparable. With liability insurance but no fire insurance, Bowers was at a loss.
“I’m a single mom raising two kids by myself,” she said. “I work seasonal – I don’t have money to come up with another vehicle. I spent a week on my couch crying.”
That’s where June Ryan came in. Unbeknownst to Bowers, Ryan and some family member and friends arranged a quick fundraiser on Facebook to help buy another car for Bowers and her family.
“I told her if I was rich, I would buy her a car,” said Ryan. “I felt bad for her because she is a single mom doing her best to take care of two kids on her own. She would do anything for them to make sure they would not go without.”
Ryan made an appeal on Facebook, hoping to raise some funds to help Bowers towards another vehicle.
“We all know times are hard for all of us at times and no one here is rich, but I am asking everyone in this town of ours … to donate a little money to help her to get another car for her and her family,” Ryan wrote on Facebook. “As a town, we can get together and help her out.”
In just four days, Ryan’s post raised $4,000 – enough to purchase a used 2009 Kia Rio Bowers’ sister found for sale in Corner Brook, and cover the taxes, transfer fee and inspection costs.
The fundraiser was done in secret. Ryan and friends paid a surprise visit to Bowers to give her the gift. Thinking it was an early birthday greeting, Bowers and her daughter Miranda were a bit confused when they saw the visitors recording their reaction.
“You may not be rich with money, but you’re rich with family and friends who love you,” was the message on the card. Bowers learned donations had come both from friends and family in Middle Arm, and from generous strangers from across Canada.
“My children and I will be forever grateful for all the donations I received,” said Bowers.
Her friend says she deserves it.
“I only did what I know Pam would have done for someone, because Pam would give the last cent she had to help someone else in need,” said Ryan. “She’s that kind of person.”