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Fishing for wheels: Radio station, car dealer help stroke survivor, mother of 3

POSTED: January 8, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Thanks to an Atlanta radio station, Cathryn Hollabaugh and Bob Powers traded in their walking shoes for car keys.

Last Friday, Hollabaugh, from Habersham County, and Powers, from Cumming, were told they each would get a car from Hall and Carriage Automotive Group in Gainesville through the radio station 104.7-FM, also called The Fish. Beginning in November, the Atlanta radio station’s Fish Christmas Wish program fielded Christmas wish requests through its Web site.

Chad Davis, promotions director for The Fish, said the station received more than 1,200 wishes, and worked with listeners and advertisers to grant more than 300 Christmas wishes. Davis said requests ranged from help paying utility bills to dental services.

Jim Russum, vice president of Hall and Carriage Automotive Group on Browns Bridge Road, said that this year was the first his auto dealership joined the radio station in granting Christmas wishes. He said he aimed to give cars away that got good gas mileage and weren’t too expensive to insure.

Hollabaugh and Powers didn’t know it, but their names were submitted to the radio station as people who were in dire need of a car.

Michelle Barbree filled out the Fish Christmas Wish form for her good friend, Hollabaugh, who is a mother of three daughters. Hollabaugh’s husband, Adam, serves in the National Guard in Winder and likely will be deployed to Afghanistan within the next year. Before receiving a red 1998 Ford Taurus from Carriage Automotive, the couple took turns driving their one car. It often put a strain on their jobs and in shuffling the children around.

"Me and my husband have shared one vehicle as long as I can remember ... and it was very trying as far as employment," Cathryn Hollabaugh said. "It has caused (my husband) to lose a lot of jobs. Getting to and from work is harder than it sounds when you have a big family and two working parents."

Cathryn Hollabaugh also said that while her husband went to drill in Winder for two to three days each month, she and the girls were stranded at home without a car. They had no means of transportation when they needed groceries or wanted to go to the park.

But last Friday, Cathryn Hollabaugh got a phone call from the "Kevin and Taylor in the Morning" show on 104.7 The Fish. She was told that Barbree secretly made a wish for her, and the radio station was going to make that wish come true.

"For The Fish to help with this was amazing," Hollabaugh said. "With this car, I can see things going in only one direction — forward. Every time I get in the car, I’m like ‘Woo-hoo!’"

The mother of three added now that she has her own car, she is making plans to return to school.

The Hollabaughs weren’t the only ones to be surprised with a car by the radio station. Zach Abernathy also secretly nominated his father-in-law, Bob Powers, 59. Powers suffered a stroke six years ago. His car broke down four months ago, putting him walking a mile each way from home to work five days a week.

Once the auto dealership and radio station selected Powers as one of its two car recipients, the station contacted Abernathy. He then phoned Powers to tell him he was the new owner of a dark green 1999 Oldsmobile.

"I was flabbergasted," Powers said. "It was a shock, a pleasant one, but still a shock. It was quite a thing for somebody to do."

Powers said having the car means an easier trip to work and to get groceries and medicine. It will also allow him to visit the doctor without inconveniencing family members for a ride.

"It’s going to make my life a whole lot easier," he said. "And it will save some wear and tear on my legs. I can’t thank them enough for it. I’m very grateful they chose me."



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