Wednesday, April 24, 2024

First car is a Firebird

Staff Writer | December 24, 2020 1:07 AM

HAYDEN — Bernie Bullington was saving for her first car.

She can stop.

The Rathdrum 15-year-old, who doesn't even have her Idaho driver's license yet, won the sleek 1999 Pontiac Firebird in a drawing on Wednesday to benefit the Kootenai Humane Society.

“I actually still think I’m in a dream,” she said after climbing out from behind the driver’s seat. “This is amazing.”

Bullington’s mom, Tracy, was also thrilled, but a little nervous her daughter would drive the black, sports car a bit too fast at times.

“I think she’s watched too much ‘Fast and Furious,’” she said, smiling.

Bernie Bullington’s winning ticket was drawn from 1,502 that were sold at $10 each.

Victoria Nelson, KHS director of development, said the proceeds will be a tremendous help with their daily operations, especially as a challenging year comes to a close.

“We’re able to take care of so many more animals with donations like this,” she said. “We’re just so thrilled that Michael thought of us.”

Michael Patterson donated the car earlier this year. He bought it in 2003 from the original owner, kept it in the garage and only occasionally drove it, as it only has 72,000 miles on it.

The body and interior are in excellent shape. It has a T-top, V6, 3.8 liter engine, four-speed automatic transmission, original chrome rims and low profile tires.

In other words, it's pretty cool.

Patterson liked taking it on road trips.

“It’s a fun car to drive around,” he said. “I really like the car.”

But when he decided to turn his garage into a workshop, the Firebird had to go.

It went to KHS, where Patterson is a volunteer.

He was pleased that Bullington will be the new owner.

“I’m so glad somebody like her won it and is so very happy about it,” Patterson said.

Bullington’s neighbor, Gayle Stegmann, actually bought 10 tickets for the car drawing and gave them to her as a gift and said, “good luck.”

Lucky, she was.

“I am overwhelmed,” she said.

This was the second vehicle this year donated and given away in a drawing to benefit KHS. In October, Brenda Busch of Coeur d'Alene won a 1976 Volkswagen Bus donated by Jonah Namson, owner of Post Falls Volkswagen. About 4,000 tickets, $10 each, were sold for that one.

Several members of the Bullington family were present for Wednesday's 1 p.m. drawing at KHS because they thought they had to be there to win.

“We jumped in the car and drove from Rathdrum Mountain to get here,” Tracy Bullington said. “We all ran down here and shockingly, she won. We’re just shocked over the whole thing.”

Bernie Bullington has two older brothers, two younger brothers and a younger sister. She said she’ll be driving them around, to school, to stores, as well as letting her older brothers give it a spin.

“Every single time we get a car we all pile into the car,” she said, smiling.

“They’re super, super close,” her mom said.

Bullington, who expects to receive her driver’s license in a few weeks, had been saving to buy a Jeep Renegade.

But when she saw — and heard the Firebird's engine purr — she knew she had the car she wanted.

“She was sold,” her mom said.

Bernie Bullington, standing and chatting with younger sister Mariana, 12, described winning the car as “so weird and cool.”

“I’m like on Fast and Furious,” she said after sitting behind the wheel.

It is the Christmas gift she never expected.

“I didn’t think I was going to get such a nice car for my first car,” she said.

Her mom looked on, happy, but uncertain as her daughter revved the engine.

“She's still terrified,” Bernie said.



Bernie Bullington reaches out to shut the door of the 1999 Pontiac Firebird she won in a drawing Friday at the Kootenai Humane Society, while younger brother Nolan looks on from the back seat.