A community of families in Mount Laurel, New Jersey treated one of its most admired members to the experience of a lifetime. A friendly bus driver for nearly 27 years and lifelong Eagles fan, Gary Kelmer, was making his last stop on Monday afternoon completely unaware of the surprise waiting for him. The parents and students had raised over $5,000 in five days to get two tickets and airfare for Kelmer to attend this year's Super Bowl.
Nearly 60 people wearing Eagles apparel anxiously stood outside the final stop. The moment was one of disbelief for Kelmer.
"I've been totally elated," Kelmer says when asked about the past few days. "This would be my first shot at going to the Super Bowl. I wasn't expecting it and totally overwhelmed.
"My passion with the Eagles goes back a long, long way, even with my father. I've met a number of Eagles players over the years. I used to take (former Eagles head coach) Ray Rhodes' children to school."
Kelmer was born and raised in Marlton, New Jersey before he moved to Washington Crossing in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He worked long 12-hour days at a small used-car lot in Trenton, New Jersey that his parents owned until he realized he wanted a career change. Kelmer began his quest for a job that simply offered benefits and a pension but ended up finding what he considers his calling.
"It all fell into place," he says. "I've been doing it ever since 1991."
Kelmer and his wife, Loraine, moved back to Marlton. He was hired by the Lenape Regional High School District to drive students but opted to chauffeur younger kids. He's had a positive impact on the young lives and it's a duty he now cherishes.
"I got this job by accident," Kelmer laughs. "It wasn't a job that I had aspirations of doing. I just was in the automobile business for many years. But I had no idea I'd be doing this."
As a tradition, Kelmer regularly rehearses the Eagles' fight song with the students on his bus. He considered retiring from his job as a bus driver at the end of the school year in June. However, he chose against doing so after receiving such warm support – a decision that made the members of the community very happy.
On Sunday, he and Loraine, who just recently celebrated 30 years of marriage, are headed to the big game in Minneapolis.
"I've just made friends with so many families in Mount Laurel. I've touched so many hearts and so many hearts have touched me," Kelmer says.
"The words don't say enough."