Regardless of the circumstances, losing a parent can be devastating for a young child. Ben Keryluke can relate to that, as his two grandchildren lost their mom and dad after an accident in May 2018. However, when the family looked to auction off one of their classic cars a few months later, the response left them floored.
Residents of Red Deer, Alberta, Brent and Nicole Keryluke first met in January 2005, before getting married three years later. The pair shared a real love of sport and the great outdoors, with Nicole utilizing that passion in her job as a personal fitness trainer. Their intertwined interests didn’t end there, though.
Indeed, Brent and Nicole were big fans of MMA, which led them to start their own website on the sport. The pair would post the results of certain fights on the site, as well as interviews with some of the fighters. However, of all their passions and interests, one stood out in particular for Brent.
The Red Deer native was an employee in the gas and oil industry, working with electrics and instrumentation. With all that knowledge at his disposal, Brent took a big interest in mechanics and classic cars, which resulted in an ambitious project. Indeed, he looked to restore a 1973 Pontiac Parisienne to its former glories.
However, despite their growing number of hobbies, Brent and Nicole still found time to start their own family. The couple were the proud parents of two young children named Arielle and Liam. The latter celebrated his third birthday in May 2018. Tragically, though, their kids’ lives changed forever just three days later.
On May 5 Brent and Nicole went out for a ride on their motorbike, traveling in the vicinity of the town of Innisfail, Alberta. However, while out on the highway, the pair collided with a truck, killing them instantly. After the accident, Arielle and Liam were taken in by their devastated grandparents, who would now look after them.
However, while they received plenty of additional help from their relatives, Ben and Marilyn Keryluke needed to make some major changes in their lives as guardians. Indeed, the former was semi-retired before the accident. However, he would need to go back to work full time to support his grandchildren.
The challenges didn’t end there, though, as Arielle and Liam also make frequent visits to the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Unfortunately, they both suffer from hearing impairments. As a result of that, the pair have several appointments with the audiologists and speech therapists at the Calgary facility.
“I was semi-retired,” Ben told Canada’s CBC Radio in September 2018. “I thought I might be able to make it by. And then now we’ve got two children to raise. And we can’t very well go back to work because when you’re 66 years old and you’re raising little children, it takes up all of your time.”
With that in mind, Ben then made an incredibly difficult decision. In an effort to lessen the financial burden, he planned to auction off his son’s classic Pontiac Parisienne, aiming for bids of about $14,000. The family transported the car to Electric Garage Auctions in September 2018, but few could’ve predicted what happened next.
While introducing the Pontiac to the room, the auctioneer then offered some context to the bidders. “They told the story of why it was being sold and that we wanted to keep the car but, unfortunately, if you can’t, you can’t,” Ben recalled. “Then they started the auction and what happened from there was nothing short of amazing.”
Indeed, due to some thoughtful promotions via the local media, Electric Garage Auctions had attracted the attention of the entire community for this event. With the residents in place, the bidding quickly began and surged past Ben’s aim of $14,000, as the vehicle eventually sold for $29,000. However, there was a twist.
Rod McWilliam, operations manager at Red Deer Motors, was the bidder in question. After buying the Pontiac, though, he immediately donated it back to the auction, opening up the bids again. From there, Edmonton resident Danny Fayad bought the car for $30,000, before giving it back a second time.
With additional donations being made to the Kerylukes alongside the sales, Bulldog Metals’ Bob Bevins then made the final bid for the car. Bevins bought the Pontiac for $20,000, but much like McWilliam and Fayad before him, he didn’t want to keep it. Instead, he gave it back to Ben and his family for free.
“[Bevins] didn’t want to be recognized for it,” Lyndsay Payne, the co-owner of the auction house, told Global News in September 2018. “He just went up to Ben personally after the auction and said, ‘You know what? I want your family to have that car so I’m giving it back to you.’”
“When our auctioneer Rod announced that, the place just went wild,” Payne added. “There was a standing ovation, people were cheering, whistling. It was wonderful.” In Bevins’ mind, though, the decision wasn’t difficult, as he looked ahead to the Pontiac’s future with the family.
“It had way more sentimental value to that family than me owning another classic car,” Bevins told Global News. “So I thought maybe someday, [Liam] will be able to drive his father’s car.” Incredibly, the auction raised close to $100,000 for the Kerylukes, alongside the return of the Pontiac.
“It was incredible,” Ben told CBC Radio of the auction and subsequent bids. “People were standing up. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. Everyone was clapping and cheering every bid that came in. It was amazing.”
The donations didn’t end there, though, as Ben had also set up a GoFundMe page for Arielle and Liam back in May 2018. Since then, the page has raised more than $80,000, just under the $100,000 target. With the money still coming in, the children’s grandfather then revealed just how much that generosity meant to his family after the accident.
“It helps a lot,” Ben told CBC Radio. “And knowing that there’s people out there that care as much as they do and would want to help you out in a situation like this.” As for the Pontiac and the children, he envisioned a possible future. “Hopefully, they can enjoy their father’s car when they get older,” he added.