“This is the story of a little girl who wished very hard and very long for a Corvette, and finally saw her wish come true. Unlike the fairy tales she heard as a baby, however, there was no fairy godmother to grant her wish. What she did have was a very determined mom— and a pile of aluminum cans.”
The above is the lede paragraph of a story from the January/February 2006 issue of America’s Sports Car magazine, published by the National Corvette Museum,and it’s a story that bears retelling — and updating, which the museum has done in a recent newsletter.
Back in 1984, Brian Ginn and Cheryl Rowland were medics and part of the team in the Army Reserves’ 412th Medical Detachment medivac helicopter that was involved in an amid-air collision and plummeted 75 feet to the ground. Two people died. Cheryl was seriously injured, but would resume a normal life before her injuries again took their toll years later.
In the meantime, in 1991, a daughter was born, and named Jessica. The couple would divorce a year later. Cheryl worked at a hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, and found a college student, Rachel Wright, to serve as babysitter.
The Wrights were a family that drove Corvettes, and on a daily basis, Rachel would put Jessica into one of the family’s sports cars for the drive down a long gravel path to the mailbox.
“They had no idea the impression this was making on Jessica,” Cheryl said. “How many 2-year-old girls ask for a Corvette for their birthday?”
So, for her third birthday, Jessica unwrapped a Corvette, albeit a small metal version that Cheryl had purchased for her.
“Later I noticed she wasn’t playing with it and (I) asked why,” Cheryl recalled. “She told me, ‘Mom, we can’t ride in it’.”
Cheryl’s response was to suggest that Jessica save her money by collecting aluminum cans to turn in at a recycling center, and to save her money to buy a real Corvette.
Perhaps as inspiration, Cheryl took Jessica, then age 4, to the newly opened National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. A year later, they toured the nearby Corvette assembly plant. They built a Corvette model, collected die-cast Corvettes, and identified every Corvette they saw while driving.
Later, as Cheryl’s health declined, she decided not to wait too long to buy that real Corvette, and in 2004 Dan DaPonte at Bachman Chevrolet in Louisville helped her find a 2001 coupe she could afford. To pay for the car, Jessica contributed the money she’d saved from 10 years of can collecting.
Fast forward a few years… Jessica’s still driving that ’01 Corvette and Cheryl has a C6 of her ow. But on September 15, the 37th anniversary of the helicopter crash, they were back at the museum, this time to take delivery of a special-ordered 2021 mid-engine C8.