June 8, 2018

Hatteras Island Community Gives Local Boy a Brand New Ride

On Friday morning, students, teachers, and friends gathered at the parking lot of the Cape Hatteras Secondary School (CHSS) for the unveiling of a very special surprise graduation gift – a brand new golf cart for graduate Ethan Bachelor.

Ethan has autism, but is an inspiration for everyone who knows him. The senior was voted Homecoming King at CHSS in the fall, and when graduation rolled around, his friends and family knew they had to do something special to celebrate his achievement.

And one of Ethan’s favorite things is cruising around in style in his golf cart – an activity which unfortunately came to a halt after his old cart broke down beyond repair.

Melinda Cartwright, substitute teacher and family friend, orchestrated an island-wide effort to raise enough funds to supply Ethan with a new ride – an endeavor that was propelled by tons of love and appreciation for Ethan himself.

“I got to work with Ethan and fell in love with him,” said Melinda. “He’s the most vibrant person you’ve ever met. He loves life, and is always happy.”

“My husband had worked on his golf cart couple times when it needed repairs, but this last time it was broken, there was just no way to fix it,” she said. “So we said we’ve got to do something about this.”

And so they did. Working with Ethan’s family, teachers and friends, Melinda started a very successful GoFundMe campaign that raised more than $2,000 from roughly 40 donors, hosted a bake sale with Honor Society student volunteers, and also collected donations from tons of people who wanted to help. The organization Hearts of Hope also helped with the endeavor, as did visitor donors from as far away from California. 

“[His golf cart] is his happy place on the planet,” she said. “Ever since he was little, his dad always said he was obsessed with golf carts. He’s just such a ray of sunshine, and everyone wanted to give him a little bit of happiness because he so deserves it.”

The fundraising efforts worked like a charm, and a few days before big presentation, Melinda drove to Virginia to pick up his new and customized ride. The golf cart was decked out in big tires and a lift kit, (an upgrade designed just for Ethan who adores big tires), was a royal blue color, and had Ethan’s name literally written on it in custom detail work, courtesy of friend Jennifer Cromwell.

And on Friday morning, after weeks of anticipation for everyone involved, the surprise golf cart was finally unveiled after Ethan and other seniors returned from the Walk of Fame at the Cape Hatteras Elementary School.

After Ethan got off the bus and noticed the unusual crowd, Melinda stepped up and told him “All of your friends are here because we brought you a graduation present…”

Then the golf cart rolled in, and Ethan could be spotted clapping and grinning from ear to ear.

Naturally, Ethan took his new ride out for a test spin immediately, with friends and family members climbing aboard to enjoy a quick cruise.

And for Melinda - and everyone who has the pleasure of knowing Ethan – the payoff was well worth the weeks of work and anticipation.

“Working with him is a highlight of my day,” said Melinda. “I love that it is such a surprise, and that we could keep it a giant secret even though the whole community knew.”

“It takes a village, and the way this community pulls together is heartwarming,” she added. “You don’t think communities like this exist anymore, but they do, right here on our island.”


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