MOUNT LAUREL - Gary Kelmer has been a dedicated bus driver for nearly 30 years with the Mount Laurel School District, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
In fact, he got a super surprise for his efforts: He’s going to Super Bowl LII.
The Mount Laurel community wanted to do something super special for Kelmer’s many acts of kindness over the years. They decided they’d send the lifelong Philadelphia Eagles fan to the Super Bowl when his beloved Eagles face the New England Patriots Sunday in Minneapolis.
Mount Laurel residents Amy and Izaak Smith started a GoFundMe page on Jan. 23. More than 120 people donated, raising $5,097 in five days, enabling the community to send Kelmer on a dream trip.
Kelmer, a bus driver with Mount Laurel for 26 years, was presented with the big surprise at his last stop of the day on Monday. There were more than 60 people waiting to share the news: he’d won a trip for he and his wife Lorraine to attend the Big Game, including tickets, air fare and personalized Eagles jerseys.
“I was in tears,” Kelmer said in a phone interview with the Courier-Post. “I didn’t know I had that many followers that remembered me from 20 some years ago, 18 years ago. I touched a lot of lives.
“I’m excited. When I saw all these people at that bus stop, with all of the hoopla, I’m just wow. I was ecstatic. I said ‘what’s going on here?’ Then I see the Super Bowl signs and the Eagles jerseys with Mr. Gary and Mrs. Gary, I just was flabbergasted. I almost fell over when I walked out of the bus.”
Kelmer and his wife leave early Sunday morning for Minneapolis.
“We just love Mr. Gary,” Amy Smith said. “He’s a wonderful person. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He cares about our kids. I saw his reaction after the Eagles won the NFC championship. I said to my husband, ‘I would love more than anything to win a Super Bowl ticket for Mr. Gary.’ My husband Izaak told me to start the GoFundMe page.”
When they started the crowdfunding campaign, Amy Smith wrote that she and her husband have “three kiddos, two of which ride on the bus to school everyday, thanks to an awesome bus driver, Mr. Gary.”
She wrote “If you know Mr. Gary, you know two things for sure: 1. He loves his job as a bus driver for Mount Laurel students, which he has been doing for over 20 years. 2. He is a die hard Eagles fan. Every kid who rides his bus knows the Eagles fight song.
“We are so blessed to have such a wonderful bus driver.”
“We were as surprised as everyone else to learn of the community effort to send Gary to the Super Bowl, but we are well aware of his connection to the students and parents of Mount Laurel,” said Mount Laurel School District Superintendent George Rafferty in a statement.
“Gary’s annual fishing derby for children here is in its 20th year. It is a personal volunteer effort outside of his work as a district bus driver. The only thing Gary loves more than fishing is the Philadelphia Eagles!”
Kelmer, who’s been married for 30 years, also works for a property management company.
The Marlton resident said he had been in the automobile business along with his parents before they retired and moved to Florida in 1988. Kelmer was a newlywed at the time, and learned of the Mount Laurel school bus job a few years later from a friend.
“This job, I’ve been blessed in so many ways,” he said. “I’ve opened up so many eyes with the type of person that I am. I’m blushing right now. I have a very, very deep faith. I’ve been so blessed.”
Celeste E. Whittaker: @cp_CWhittaker; 856-486-2437; firstname.lastname@example.org
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Local barbers are cutting Eagles and Patriots logos and other special designs into customers’ hair leading up to Super Bowl LII. Some fans are also getting their hair dyed green. Celeste E. Whittaker/Staff Photographer