Ellen DeGeneres surprises Chattanooga woman with new car
By Callie Starnes
Eyewitness News Reporter/Weekend Anchor
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - A Chattanooga woman got the surprise of a lifetime Wednesday evening when the nationally syndicated Ellen DeGeneres Show showed up to her home with a new car and check for $10,000.
Producers knocked on 21-year-old Jennifer Haynie's door shortly before 8:00 p.m. with cameras rolling. A small monitor allowed Ellen to appear live via satellite for the surprise.
Jennifer was chosen to receive a car after Jennifer wrote a letter to Ellen explaining the couple's situation. Ellen took it a step further with the $10,000 gift.
Channel 3 was in on the secret after Ellen's producers contacted the Channel 3 Eyewitness newsroom for coordination since the show airs weekdays on WRCB.
Our crew went to her home Tuesday to interview Jennifer about her letter to Ellen. In that interview Jennifer opened up about her struggles.
"It's like we just can't get ahead," said Jennifer.
Jennifer and her fiance dropped out of college when they learned Jennifer was pregnant with their son Gavin. She couldn't afford tuition and fiance, Eric, needed a full-time job.
She says she dreams of the day when they can catch up on bills and get back in school.
"It's that we know we need to, not only for ourselves, but for Gavin," said Jennifer.
During the pregnancy Jennifer was put on bed rest. She says her employer wasn't willing to work with her and let her go. She now stays home with nine month-old Gavin.
Eric works two server jobs to pay the bills. He rarely gets a day off, and most days works double shifts.
"He can't do any more," said Jennifer.
The couple's biggest challenge is not having a car. They took out a loan to buy a car that now won't start so they are left to make payments on a car that won't run.
Jennifer relies on friends and sometimes taxis to get to Gavin's doctors appointments or the grocery store. Eric does the same to get to and from work.
"It's really scary especially when (Gavin) is at the age where he gets into everything," said Jennifer, "if something were to happen I would have to call 911, which is fine, but would much rather be able to jump in the car and drive him myself."
As Jennifer told us about her struggles, we asked how she kept smiling.
"Everyday I wake up thinking how am I going to get through today and then I hear (Gavin) in his room ready to wake up," she said, "I walk in there and he's got this huge smile on his face and it's like, that's how."
Jennifer's story will air on The Ellen Show this Thursday at 4:00 p.m. on WRCB Channel 3.
Watch Channel 3 Eyewitness News Live at 5 Thursday for more of our exclusive interview with Jennifer and the moment Ellen's team knocked on her door. Join the conversation at Facebook.com/WRCBtv.
Channel 3 is also sharing this story with our partners at the Chattanooga Times Free Press as well as US-101, KISS-FM, and Clear Channel radio. You can get more from them as well. For a link to our TwitCast as the surprise happened click here.