Oklahoma teen wins Volkswagen Beetle after attending a stranger’s funeral

An Oklahoma teen is on top of the world after winning a car last month at a funeral 30 miles away from her home — fulfilling the last wish of a woman she had never even met. 

“I’m very grateful for this,” Gabriella Bonham, 16, of El Reno, Oklahoma, told Fox News Digital. 

“Every person that I’ve told about it has said, ‘Oh my gosh. That’s what I should do whenever I pass away.’ Or, ‘I should do something like that at my funeral.’ I think that it’s really cool to see something good happen and the effect that it makes on other people who weren’t directly involved in it. Just people want to do good things. It’s amazing.”

That’s exactly the way Diane Sweeney of Oklahoma City wanted it. 

She died suddenly on July 7, 2022 — and just a few weeks before had told her nephew that when she died, she wanted to gift one of her prized possessions — a 2016 Volkswagen Beetle — to someone who attended the funeral.

“She always had a giving spirit,” Sweeney’s nephew, Rick Ingram, told Fox News Digital. 

“She told a few of us her wish. I remember it clear as day. She said, ‘Whoever comes to my funeral, I want them to have a chance to win my Volkswagen Beetle.’ And I said, ‘Oh, Diane, I’ll make that happen.’” 

Thirty days later, Ingram said he got a call telling him that his aunt had passed away.

Sweeney, who worked in biostatistics for an East coast pharmaceutical company, was not married and did not have children. 

After a successful career, his aunt decided to move back to Oklahoma and live a simple life, said Ingram.

“She valued a peaceful life,” Ingram said. 

Oklahoma teen, Gabriella Bonham, 16, wins Volkswagen Beetle after attending a stranger’s funeral.
Rodney Bonham

“She could have lived anywhere and driven any vehicle. And what she cared about was her Christian faith, her family and her Volkswagen Beetle. She also loved Sonic and Burger King.”

Ingram said he and his cousin, Suzanne Singleterry, decided to make her final wish come true. 

So they reached out to local news outlets to help get the word out.

“We put it in the local paper,” Ingram said. “That her wish is that whoever comes to the funeral — and she didn’t care if they knew her or not, or their age, race — would have a chance to win her car. Channel 4 picked it up and asked if they could do a news story [about it].I said, ‘Absolutely. It’ll pack the funeral home’ — which it did.”

Sixteen-year-old Gabriella Bonham was one of the people who came to the funeral. 

“I saw it on TV and then we kind of just laughed it off because we were like, ‘That would be so funny to go to,’” Bonham said. 

Diane Sweeney wanted whoever came to her funeral to have a chance to win her beloved Volkswagen.
Diane Sweeney wanted whoever came to her funeral to have a chance to win her beloved Volkswagen.
Rick Ingram

“Then I was like, ‘Can we actually go?’” 

Bonham talked two of her older sisters and some cousins into going with her to the service — and what started out as a fun adventure turned into a more meaningful experience than she ever imagined. 

There, Bonham learned about the life and kindness of Diane Sweeney.

“It was very interesting not to know her and to see her life through her family’s eyes,” Bonham said. 

“They put together the slideshows and everything and so it was just interesting to feel like you knew someone that you had never met before. They said that she was a very funny and fun person to be around and that she loved her family and church. It definitely seemed like she was a generous person.”

Bonham filled out her raffle ticket and went on her way — but didn’t hear anything for over a year. 

Ingram said it took that long to settle Sweeney’s estate and then they were free to hold the raffle.

Sweeney had enlisted two trustworthy friends — Rudy Espinoza and Taylor Hurt — to keep the tickets safe and finally to draw a name on Sept. 15, 2023. 

The staff of Resthaven Funeral Home in Oklahoma City also helped facilitate the raffle.

Out of the blue, Bonham said, she got a phone call that changed her life — or at least her ability to get around town. 

She was experiencing issues with her current car and it was not a reliable mode of transportation, she said.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Bonham said. “I was just in a hotel room with my family because we were currently on a trip. They just told me and I was standing in the middle of the room, just so shocked. My parents were trying to guess what it was. They were like, ‘What happened? Are you OK? Who is it?’ After I got off the phone, we all got excited and called all of our family members who knew that I went to the funeral.”

Ingram said it was a lot of fun making the call and hearing the excitement of Bonham’s family in the background. 

“The perfect winner was drawn,” Ingram said. 

“She was ecstatic and very grateful. I had a divine feeling from the start [that] this wish would be seen through one way or another — a young girl starting her life as Diane’s was ending. It worked out perfectly.” 

A few days later, Bonham made the trip to Oklahoma City to claim her prize.

“I was trying not to freak out because it was just so cool,” Bonham said. 

“It was a lot of pressure, driving away in front of everybody. I was kind of nervous. So I was just thinking ‘Don’t do anything stupid. You know how to drive. Don’t worry about it, just drive away.’”

Ingram said he’s grateful for the message of his aunt’s life.

“Diane would have been thrilled with everyone that attended the funeral,” Ingram said. 

“She was always thinking of others, even after her death, which is one of her many legacies. And now [Gabriella] starts her life in the spirit of Diane.”

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