TRAVERSE CITY — Clive and Susan Cavendish expected to eat hot dogs and hamburgers when they arrived at the year-end picnic for Northwestern Michigan College’s Automotive Department.
But their hunger quickly turned to surprise Wednesday afternoon.
The couple had no idea what was really in store for them when they walked into a room lined with students from the NMC automotive program.
Then they saw it — a 2001 Chrysler Town & Country minivan — a gift from the department’s staff and students. It was a gift made all the more special because of what it meant to the previously carless couple.
Clive Cavendish, 71, suffers from gastrointestinal stromal tumors, a rare kind of cancer which required the removal of eight feet of his small intestine.
Cavendish long relied on his children — or Bay Area Transportation Authority buses — to ferry him to and from Munson Medical Center for his treatment. But now he’s got his own set of wheels.
“This is so kind of everybody,” he said. “Everybody has got together to actually produce a gift which will help us tremendously.”
Dozens of NMC automotive students lined the walls of a garage at the department’s Aero Park Drive facility as automotive program coordinator Wayne Moody led Cavendish and his wife to the surprise.
“Now I don’t have to see you walking down the street for the BATA bus anymore,” Moody said.
The reflection of the garage’s fluorescent lights gleamed off the minivan’s spotless dark blue finish as Clive Cavendish sat in the driver’s seat for the first time.
Cavendish admitted he can’t yet drive — at least not in the U.S. He and his family moved to the country from England about 20 years ago, and he has yet to take a stateside drivers test.
Gregory Smith, the couple’s son, said the new blue minivan should change all that.