Donors surprise young Princeton mother with early Christmas gift

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald
Christina Wheeler, of Princeton, is surprised Tuesday by the gift of a van that came from donations from individuals, businesses and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.

A 24-year-old Princeton mother of two received a Christmas memory that will last a lifetime.

The Franklin County Sheriff's Office raised money to purchase a van and donate it to Christine Wheeler so she would not have to walk 6 miles to work. On Tuesday, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, along with community members in partnership with Love’s Truck Stop, were able to surprise her in hopes of making a better Christmas for her and small children.

“I am very proud of the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office,” said Franklin County Sheriff Jeff Richards. “This is not just something they did, this shows who they are. I am proud of who they are. This is an example of their commitment to serve our community. Sgt. Jesse Vega and his patrol team saw a need and worked to fill it. Working with other members of the Sheriff’s Office and community members, they were able to bless someone in a way that words cannot express.

“On behalf of the entire staff of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, I want to wish everyone a very merry Christmas.”

Vega said that through donations from generous citizens and businesses and the use of “No Shave November” funds, they were able to donate a van, two new car seats, a Price Chopper gift card, the registration for the van and the first year of car insurance, along with $200.

Vega said a special thank you goes to the following individuals and groups for their donations: sheriff's deputies; the Cunningham family, in memory of William and Hudson; John and Erin Coffman; Bill Crowley; NAPA Auto Parts; T & W Sanitation; and Ripples of Change.

About two weeks ago, the sheriff’s office received several calls for service regarding a woman walking on US-59 highway between Ottawa and Princeton about 7 a.m. Each time deputies responded, they encountered Wheeler walking and would give her a ride to work so she would not have to walk on the cold highway, Vega said.

The deputies learned Wheeler walked 6 miles to work at Love’s Truck Stop (and then 6 miles back home) to support her two small children, Vega said. She made several comments about how she had to walk so she could feed her children and was very driven and motivated to take care of her family.

On Dec. 9, after giving her a ride to work, deputies gathered to discuss how they could help her, Vega said.

The idea was hatched, and a Christmas wish was granted this week.