Phoenix teacher who was victim of hit-and-run gets big surprise

Surprise Squad is sponsored by Valley Toyota Dealers.
"I feel like I should cry," Debra McGowan, a beloved teacher at Reyes Maria Ruiz Leadership...
"I feel like I should cry," Debra McGowan, a beloved teacher at Reyes Maria Ruiz Leadership Academy in Phoenix, said as her eyes welled up with tears.(Arizona's Family)
Updated: Apr. 16, 2021 at 5:16 AM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PHOENIX (Surprise Squad) -- Debra McGowan is a beloved teacher at Reyes Maria Ruiz Leadership Academy in Phoenix. She was recently a victim of a hit-and-run wreck and was stuck paying for her car rental and repairs even though the accident was not her fault. Kristen Helser is a parent whose children were taught by McGowan. When she heard what happened, she reached out to the Arizona’s Family Surprise Squad.

“She is an amazing teacher,” Helser explained. “Plus, she is family to me. She does everything. Somebody hit her car and took off. Teachers don’t make a lot of money.”

Adam Sharp is the school’s principal. He also had nothing but praise for the educator. “Ms. McGowan has been here 10 years, and she has impacted so many kids, so many families. She’s one of our master teachers.”

“What does it mean to surprise her like this?” Soto asked Helser.

“It means the world to me,” she answered as she started to tear up. “Honestly, it brings joy to me and tears because she deserves this 100%.”

The Surprise Squad set up their cameras outside the classroom while Sharp told McGowan that she was needed. He didn’t tell why. Soto greeted the teacher as she approached the cameras.

“Ms. McGowan, surprise! I’m Javier Soto with Arizona’s Family, and we’re here with the Surprise Squad to surprise you. We’ve arranged all this because we understand you’re in need right now. Something about a car accident, a hit-and-run.”

“I feel like I should cry,” McGowan said as her eyes welled up with tears. “I was leaving work on Friday a couple of weeks ago. I went to the bank to get some money for the weekend. I came out, I stopped, the guy next to me stopped to the left. The other person just kept flying by. I stopped to look at the damage. They were nowhere to be found. I thought I was going to be able to get the car fixed through insurance, and it was too much damage underneath. But I got a rental, and I was going to work something out.”

Soto presented her with an envelope with the Surprise Squad logo on it. “On behalf of Arizona’s Family Surprise Squad and Valley Toyota Dealers, we want to give you this.”

“Oh my!” McGowan said as she read the certificate inside. “Thank you. Can I give you a hug? Thank you so much. Thank you, Kristen. Here, look. It’s $3,000. That’s a lot of money. Thank you so much.”

“How will that help?” Soto asked.

“Oh, it will help. I’ll have me a new ride in no time.”