Radio team surprises Odell single mom with Wheels of Hope ride

DESTINY WHITAKER, outside the Heart of Hospice’s Wasco Street headquarters, takes in the moment with co-workers. With her are Lisa Pacheco, Jessie Usher, Donita Brownlee, Deb Lambo, and Tama Hepner.

Destiny Whitaker’s car blew a tire on a Tuesday but the fix came on a Wednesday — in a big, hopeful way. Whitaker, an Odell single mother of five children, aged 7-19, was awarded a van as the result of Wheels of Hope from Bicoastal Media. Whitaker received a big surprise when a crew from Bicoastal arrived at her work place, Heart of Hospice, on Sept. 16 under cover of recording some radio spots for Heart of Hospice.

“It’s surreal. You don’t expect to win anything like this. It’s overwhelming,” Whitaker said.

Asked how it would help her, she said, “Just getting the kids to and from what they need, and just being more effective.”

She said a friend said she should nominate herself for Wheels of Hope, “But I said, ‘No. A lot of people need it more than I do.’”

In June, the radio stations of Bicoastal Media, Mid-Columbia Medical Center, and Griffith Motors launched a campaign to help a Columbia Gorge family in need. Wheels of Hope will provide a deserving family lacking transportation options a vehicle to help them meet their daily needs, offering a hand up. Whitaker and her family were nominated by several of her friends and neighbors.

“I can’t think of anyone more deserving,” said her co-worker, Candace Wilson.

Pausing at the front counter where Whitaker is stationed, reporter Randy Haines asked, “Did any of you hear who won Wheels of Hope?” All said they did not, and Haines turned to Whitaker and said, “You’re the winner, Destiny.”

Reportedly, her shocked response was not fit for broadcast or publication.

Haines was then joined by Bicoastal staff as well as David Griffith of Griffith Motors, arriving in a 2004 Toyota minivan. A tearful Whitaker accepted balloons and flowers and the keys to her car. She was joined by her son, Austin, 19, who is a West Side Fire volunteer.

Whitaker was divorced earlier this year and her vehicle broke down. The family had little money to repair it, so a reliable vehicle should provide much-needed help and a positive lift during a difficult year, noted Gary Grossman of Bicoastal.

The response to the campaign was tremendous and the selection process challenging. A panel of judges made up of representatives from Bicoastal Media, Mid-Columbia Medical Center, and representatives of agencies involved in helping families screened the nominations and selected the family to receive the vehicle.

Bicoastal Media owns and operates KACI 93.5 FM, Newsradio 1300 AM/103.9 FM, KCGB 105.5/96.9 FM, KIHR AM 1340/98.3 FM, and KMSW 92.7/102.9 FM.

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