Country singer Russell Dickerson was scrolling through Instagram, checking his messages when he came across a video of a girl in a hospital bed singing and dancing to his song “Home Sweet.”
When he learned more about that girl — who hails from Utah — and her heartwrenching story, he decided to give her the thrill of a lifetime.
Five months ago, Clearfield High School student Sarah Frei and three friends were returning from a trip to Bear Lake when an oncoming car crashed into theirs and paralyzed Frei from the waist down, the Deseret News reported.
Both of her legs were amputated. Frei spent a few months recovering in the hospital, where she endured 20 surgeries.
All the while, the 17-year-old kept her spirits up as best she could.
In September, she surprised her cheer team by learning the dance they choreographed to “Home Sweet.” That’s Frei’s favorite song, and her fellow cheerleaders performed the dance at every home football game this season in Frei’s honor, according to an Instagram account for the teenager.
Frei was released from the hospital in October — just in time to perform with her team at the school’s last home football game, the Deseret News reported. The teenager is currently attending her senior year remotely and plans to get a degree from Utah State University and start a career as an elementary teacher.
In awe of Frei’s optimism, Dickerson shared his support for the teenager on social media and reposted the video of the teenager doing the dance in her hospital bed.
“That first of all just rocked my world, to see the joy and to see the just zeal for life still that she had, doing this dance to my song,” Dickerson recently said. “It just drew me in and captured me.
“What can we do to just absolutely make her life?” Dickerson recalled thinking. “How can we just blow her mind?”
The country singer learned from his manager that one of Frei’s biggest concerns after the accident was whether she would ever drive again. So he decided to team up with Chevrolet to gift the 17-year-old a 2021 Chevrolet Traverse, outfitted for her specific needs.
BraunAbility, a manufacturing company that specializes in wheelchair accessible vehicles, customized the car with Frei’s needs in mind — including a fully-powered and lighted ramp, and maximized cabin space, according to an email sent to the Deseret News.
And then it was time for the big reveal.
Last week, Dickerson set up a Zoom call with Frei — but the teenager thought it was just another regular interview with a news outlet about the accident and her recovery these past few months.
Frei chatted with one of Dickerson’s producers for a while. Then she waited as he went to bring in the “editor” for an additional round of questions.
And then she found herself face-to-face with Dickerson — her favorite country singer.
Her mouth dropped wide open.
“Hey Sarah!” Dickerson said as the teenager began to cry. “It’s so good to see your face.”
“No, it’s good to see yours!” Frei responded.
“When you were doing that dance to ‘Home Sweet,’ and the joy on your face, after what you had just experienced, that is what just rocked my world,” Dickerson told the teenager. “And then for you to be so determined to get out in time to get on that football field and perform with your cheer squad, that’s just the definition of determination, and I’m so glad that ‘Home Sweet’ could be such a song of hope and joy for you.”
But the Zoom call didn’t end there.
Dickerson got emotional as he told the teenager she was now the owner of a brand new car. Frei and her parents went out to the driveway to see the white 2021 Chevrolet Traverse with a bright red bow on top.
“Thank you so much,” a shocked Frei said through tears. “This is not real. Oh my gosh.”
“Thank you for your joy and the love that you’re spreading all around to everyone who hears your story,” Dickerson responded. “Keep inspiring people, girl, ‘cause you’re doing it, you’re crushing it. I love ya and we’ll see you soon.”
After the call with Dickerson ended, Frei stayed in the driveway, hugging her new car and her parents.
“I’ve never been happier,” she said.