East Syracuse Chevrolet recently gave the Wilbur family of Fayetteville a life-changing gift four days before Christmas by teaming up with the Manlius Police Department, the Fayetteville Fire Department, Wellwood Middle School and Original Italian Pizza to donate a car, gifts and a voucher from Original Italian Pizza. (Photo provided by Michelle Wilbur).
One Fayetteville mother knew Santa Claus was coming this year to present her children with gifts, but did not realize she would receive a life-changing gift herself— from her own community.
For all of 18-month-old Tobie Wilbur’s short life, “he’s been a very sick baby,” said his mother Michelle Wilbur, who lives in Fayetteville with her four children. Born prematurely at 24 weeks, Tobie was a twin weighing just one pound. His twin brother Jackson, unfortunately, passed away in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Crouse Hospitalthe day after he was born. After spending 5.5 months in the NICU, Tobie then spent several months at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse after having numerous surgeries, including his third brain surgery on Dec. 6, which he faced with less than a 50 percent chance of survival.
In between suffering the financial burden of medical bills andmany non-medical expenses, Michelle Wilbur, who also cares for her three other children who attend Wellwood Middle School, was suffering another costly burden effecting her family’s transportation situation— the lack of a car.
That burden was lifted on Saturday, Dec. 22 when the Manlius Police Department, the Fayetteville Fire Department, Wellwood Middle School and East Syracuse Chevrolet came together four days before Christmas to surprise the family with a free cobalt blue Chevy Cruze, Christmas presents for the kids and a generous food voucher from Original Italian Pizza (OIP) for free pizza throughout 2019.
“All of us at East Syracuse Chevrolet realize it is the season of giving, so we wanted to help out a family this year that had been going through some tough times,” said East Syracuse Chevrolet Owner Gino Barbuto. To show the Wilburs that their support is a community effort, the dealership teamed up with the local establishments on Dec. 22 to surprise the Wilburs with their new car, topped off with free pizza supplied by OIP during the reveal.
Without a car, the Wilburs often used taxis to get around, but that soon came to an end when Barbuto received a phone call a few weeks ago from Sergeant Christopher Cushman of Manlius Police about a “good family in a tough situation.”
“It was a touching story,” said Barbuto. “I thought she deserved some help.”
So Barbuto decided to donate one of the dealership’s used cars to the family to make it a Christmas they would never forget.
Michelle Wilbur was “overwhelmed” by the gesture, said Barbuto.
“[All the supporters] blessed me beyond words,” said Wilbur. “I didn’t even know how to thank them enough.”
Because Tobie’s specialists work in Syracuse, “being able to get him to his appointments at a moment’s notice is probably THE biggest blessing,” said Wilbur.
“I can’t tell you how much comfort it brings me knowing I can get him to the hospital fast,” she said.
After the Wilburs moved to the Syracuse area from St. Lawrence County to be closer to Tobie’s doctors, Wilbur said she had no friends, but came to view her community as “family.”
“The donation from East Syracuse Chevrolet was truly one of the most surreal things I’ve ever experienced,” she said, even taking her appreciation to the dealership’s Facebook page to describe the donation as “beyond my wildest dreams,” leaving her “speechless, which doesn’t happen often.”
She thanked East Syracuse Chevrolet, the Manlius Police and Fire Departments, OIP Restaurant, Wellwood Middle School and “every single person who, out of the kindness of their hearts, gave so generously to my family and who loved us so abundantly,”she said. “From the bottom of my heart: thank you.”
Reporter for the Eagle Bulletin and Cazenovia Republican.