TILTON — A ticket-sales error and a young man’s honesty turned into a big contribution to the residents of the New Hampshire Veterans Home during the Home’s annual Classic Car Cruise Night last Thursday.
It was the perfect night for a car show — comfortable temperatures, a slight breeze and not a cloud in the sky — and the Home’s pavilion complex was packed with a record 100-plus cars whose drivers had come out for a night of socializing, fun, food and doo-wop music from The Bel-Airs.
Anne Chouinard, volunteering with the New Hampshire chapter of the Rolling Thunder organization, was selling tickets for the night’s 50/50 drawing, and sales were good: The night’s pot ended up a record $500. Without realizing, she handed a young man named Erik Keyser 20 dollars’ worth of tickets when he had paid $10, and moved on. But moments later, he came back and let her know the error.
“I was touched by his honesty,” Chouinard said. She decided to pay for that strip of tickets herself, and hung on to them. “Everything happens for a reason,” Chouinard said later.
Chouinard describes herself a “very proud Gold Star mother.” Her son, James L. Dixon, was a Navy electronics technician.
“... I felt my son’s presence there when (a resident) drew my ticket,” she said.
“When I went to claim my prize I was so excited about being able to donate it back, I forgot how God had intervened,” she said later. “An honest mistake was made in giving Erik the extra tickets. His honesty brought them back. I knew that those were the tickets I was supposed to buy. When Erik brought his tickets he told me if he won he would give it back to the New Hampshire Veterans Home.”
“After the drawing I was going to look for Erik. But I turned around and there he was standing in front of me. He asked me if it was one of the tickets that he gave back. I said yes. I apologized because I had not mentioned the reason I had the winning ticket was because of his honesty. He was so kind and said that was OK. But I knew I had to do something to let everyone know of his honesty and kindness.”
The $500 will go the Home’s Resident Benefit Fund, which goes toward trips, equipment and activities to enhance the quality of life for the residents.
The Veterans Home learned there was even more to the already heartwarming story. Keyser, of Tilton, is the grandson of a longtime Veterans Home employee, and he had been at the Cruise Night with his grandparents and his grandfather’s 1966 Chevelle. His grandfather is a Vietnam veteran, and Keyser himself has served six years with the New Hampshire National Guard — two with the Army and four with the Air Guard. The car show circuit is, for them, a chance to bond.
Keyser was pleased about Chouinard’s 50/50 win. He said he didn’t return the tickets expecting any acknowledgment. “I did it because it was the right thing to do.”
“I am so very happy she ended up winning because I’m glad it all went back to the vets and the home. Without them, we might not have been able to have that car show. In the end, it all worked out as it should!”
And the good karma paid off. On Friday night, Keyser was at another car show with his grandparents and the Chevelle. He won the 50/50 there.
Chouinard said she was very moved by the way things turned out. “I have done many 50/50 raffles for many organizations over the years,” she said. “But the raffle held Thursday night, August 1st, at the New Hampshire State Veterans Home, was very special. I am very grateful to everyone who supports our veterans and came to the car show.”
And the New Hampshire Veterans Home is also grateful — to Chouinard, to Keyser, and to the hundreds of people who support its resident veterans.