When Candice Berry had problems with her vehicle, she was surprised that a kind-hearted Samaritan offered to do something amazing for her. So she decided in turn that she wanted to repay the favor. And as the man arrived at the garage to fix Berry’s truck, she had a major surprise waiting for him.
Berry is a single mother who lives with her young son, Jace, in Mustang, Oklahoma. Mustang itself is located in the state’s Canadian County and is close to the major metropolis of Oklahoma City. And the area has a population on the rise. It’s been estimated, in fact, that more than 21,000 people were living in Mustang in 2017 – an increase of almost 4,000 from 2010.
Every day, Berry drives Jace to school, too. To that end, moreover, the mom was gifted a fresh set of wheels to transport herself and her son around. After Berry received the truck, however, she discovered that there were several problems with the vehicle.
What’s more, some of the things that were wrong with the Oklahoman’s truck were rather worrying. “The brakes need to be changed [as well as the] purge valve. And then also my speedometer is off,” she told KFOR in February 2019. Yet while Berry knew that the purge valve and speedometer troubles weren’t necessarily ones that needed to be urgently fixed, the same couldn’t be said for the issue with her brakes.
Yes, Berry knew that it could be dangerous to drive around with faulty brakes. And she didn’t want to take the risk of having her vehicle malfunctioning on her, either. “I don’t know how long brakes can go before they kind of give out on you,” she added to KFOR.
In particular, Berry was concerned about transporting her son to school every day with brakes that needed changing. “That’s my daily drive, and I’m just ready to make sure that it’s safe and no questions,” she explained. As a result, then, she set about finding someone who could take on the job of fixing her truck.
But although Berry was aware that the repairs to her vehicle would come at a price, the cost was beyond her reach. Every business she spoke to was providing quotes that she simply didn’t believe she could manage financially. Even so, the single mom did not give up.
Yes, Berry continued to make telephone calls to garages asking for their help. Owing to the high prices that she was hearing, however, she realized that she would need to put aside some money to get the problem fixed. And in the meantime, Berry thought, she would have to continue to use her truck despite the brake issues.
Indeed, Berry was convinced that her repairs were going to cost her a lot of cash, meaning she was naturally concerned that it would take her a long time to get together the necessary funds. The mother was just hoping, then, that the problematic brakes would not cause her to get into an accident.
“This is the thing. I needed to get to work every day, to get my son to school,” Berry said. She added of her conundrum regarding the brakes, “And this was the main thing I needed help with. [But] I didn’t see [the brakes being fixed] any time soon because I thought I’d be charged a lot at a shop.”
Ultimately, then, Berry had become fairly resigned to the fact that there was no alternative solution to her woes. However, the mom’s outlook began to change after just one conversation with Adam Ely, who owns and runs Hard Luck Automotive Services in Mustang. And what Ely told Berry left her stunned.
After trying several other garages, you see, Berry had reached out to Ely and explained both her situation and the problems with her vehicle that needed fixing. It didn’t take long for the mechanic to respond, either. But to her surprise, Ely said something very different to the employees at the businesses that Berry had previously contacted.
In particular, Ely informed Berry that she would need some new parts for her truck. When it came to discussing the cost of the repairs, though, he made a quite astounding offer. “He wrote me back right away with a price for just parts,” Berry went on to tell KFOR.
And it stands to reason that Berry initially thought something wasn’t right. After all, in his quote, Ely had only included the cost of the equipment necessary to fix the truck. This meant that he wasn’t charging her for his work on the brakes – meaning he wouldn’t take away any money from the job.
So, Berry asked Ely about the omission. “I said, ‘How much for labor?’” she later recounted to KFOR. Ely’s reply, however, was stunning. “He said, ‘I don’t charge labor,’” the mother added to the station. That’s right: the mechanic was going to fix Berry’s vehicle out of the goodness of his heart, with just some cash needed for the cost of the new parts.
Furthermore, Ely was willing to assist Berry right away. “I didn’t even anticipate him having that soon of an appointment or being able to help me that soon,” the Oklahoman woman later explained to KFOR. She also pointed out that if it hadn’t been for Ely’s generosity, the work would not have been undertaken so swiftly.
And Berry was naturally relieved that she’d be able to drive safely again – and sooner than she had anticipated to boot. “I’m grateful for [Ely],” she explained. “In a second, he said, ‘Yeah, you want to meet now? You wanna meet next week?’ Very quick – and I needed that because I needed my brakes.”
But it must be noted that Berry was not the first person to benefit from Ely’s kindness. Indeed, the mechanic has long been helping out others with their vehicles – even before he set up Hard Luck Auto in December 2017, in fact.
After serving in the military as a mechanic, you see, Ely decided to use his skills to provide car services to customers in difficult situations back home. “We offer our services free to those in need,” his garage’s website states. “If you are able to buy the parts, if we can fix it, we will. For free labor.”
What’s more, Ely endeavors to get his customers the lowest prices on their parts. And because the stores that he works with know that he’s offering a charitable service, many of them are usually willing to help him out, too. The mechanic runs the company alongside his wife, Toni, who looks after Hard Luck Auto’s social media pages while he fixes the vehicles.
“My wife and I do this because we can,” Ely wrote on his company’s website. “It doesn’t cost us anything but our time and a little bit of gas traveling to folks. We have been blessed and have met some of the best people since starting Hard Luck Auto Services.”
With this all in mind, then, some may wonder how Ely manages to put food on the table. Chiefly, he survives on funds from the Veterans Association of America given to him for back and knee injuries. And, in fact, he doesn’t fix people’s cars all of the time, either. Outside of that work, Ely is in college, where he is studying for a degree in special education for kids with disabilities.
At the same time, Ely and his wife sell T-shirts that have been designed by Toni, with the money raised through those purchases no doubt going toward paying for fuel and tools for Hard Luck Auto. Donors have given tools to the cause, too.
And Ely has since opened up about the genesis of Hard Luck Auto. According to the mechanic, it all started when he offered to fix the car of one of his daughter’s friends. The girl in question was working as a pizza delivery driver, meaning her vehicle was crucial to her livelihood. After repairing the car for free – and saving her some money in the process – Ely then “saw a need” to help others, as he told KFOR.
“When you go to a car repair place, you’re vulnerable,” Ely added to the station. “And the last thing you want is to be charged $150 to have a mechanic tell you what’s wrong with your car when you already know that your car’s broken.”
That said, there’s only so much Ely can fix. Indeed, some vehicles that he receives to work on have such severe problems that he can’t actually correct them. Nevertheless, the mechanic does everything within his power to make a difference. “I’ve never turned anyone away,” he told the BBC in March 2019. “It doesn’t matter about economic status, race or creed. I don’t even care if people take advantage; I will help them, regardless.”
In October 2018, moreover, Ely helped another single mom named Tamesha Rayes, fixing her car for cheap following a breakdown. Not only that, but the mechanic has also offered to run a campaign to raise money for teenager Wil Tanksely’s chromosome disorder treatment. Ely was spurred into action after the boy’s mother contacted him to ask for tips on selling fundraising T-shirts.
In fact, Ely has helped out many people over the years. One of those individuals, of course, was Berry, who was so touched by the mechanic’s actions that she wanted to give back to him in some way. And so when the pair met up at the garage in February 2019, she had something special waiting for him.
Prior to surprising Ely, though, Berry had got in touch with KFOR, which works alongside First Fidelity Bank to run the Pay It Forward Award. The honor is given to those who are in a tough situation and need the money or are helping their community. And KFOR viewers are able to nominate friends, colleagues or other people whom they’ve encountered for the $400 prize.
Previous winners of the award include Navor Sandoval, who greets customers at a Crest Foods grocery store and also helps out with the shopping carts. He was nominated by a customer for always having a smile on his face. Elementary school teacher Sunshine Sarrington has also been honored for getting her schoolchildren both new uniforms and visits from Santa.
Another Pay It Forward winner is 90-year-old Eleanor Curtis, who uses her time to dole out tickets to people illegally parked in spaces that are intended for disabled patrons. Sky Young, who works for the Federal Aviation Agency, also received the prize after spending the 2019 government shutdown volunteering at a food bank. And, of course, one of the more recent honorees is Ely.
Before Ely learned of his prize, though, a KFOR film crew was waiting for him at the garage as he showed up to work on the brakes of Berry’s vehicle. And evidently, he wasn’t expecting what he ultimately saw as he walked through the door.
Indeed, Ely later admitted that he “almost cussed” after laying eyes on the film crew. Then, however, he was told about the Pay It Forward Award that he was receiving for his charitable efforts, after which Berry presented him with $400 in cash. And Ely thanked the single mom for nominating him, adding that it was an “awesome” gesture.
Yet the mechanic only took a moment to bathe in the limelight before he asked Berry about getting her brakes fixed. And Ely naturally took the lead in the endeavor – not least because Berry has freely admitted that she doesn’t possess a lot of knowledge about cars.
Berry told KFOR, “I don’t have any power tools. I’ve [just] got screwdrivers. And I don’t know how to do things like change my oil [or] change my brakes – things like that.” She decided to pay close attention to what Ely was doing, however, so that she could conceivably carry out her own vehicle repairs in the future.
“I’m excited because I can watch [Ely] do things, and then I’ll know what I’m doing,” Berry shared. And she explained that she was looking forward to learning more. The mom added, “That’s another reason I’m excited, because I need to know these things with the truck so that I can help myself in the future.”
Meanwhile, Ely told KFOR that he does his job because he loves “helping folks.” That notion inspired Berry’s son, Jace, too; in fact, it appears that he now wants to follow in Ely’s footsteps. “I want to do the same thing as Adam because I just want to make the world a better place like he does,” the little boy said.
Plus, Berry herself was thrilled that she could give back to Ely in some way. “Thank you so much,” she told KFOR. “I’m grateful to be able to give this to him. I can’t think of a better person who takes time away from his family [and] who takes time away from things he could be doing for himself for strangers. And I’m just grateful.”
Yet it appears that Ely gets more out of fixing people’s vehicles than just the satisfaction of helping others – or, indeed, a check for $400. You see, the mechanic has also claimed that his work for Hard Luck Auto has improved the symptoms of his post-traumatic stress disorder.
Ely was diagnosed with the condition after he left the military in 2007; he also has flashbacks. Even so, he told the BBC, “Doing this [job] gets me through the PTSD 100 percent.” He added, “It’s such a great feeling to be able to give back to people. I get so much more out of it than they do to see that their burden is taken off them.”