ANDERSON COUNTY, Tenn. — In Anderson County, a high school student's Christmas wish to visit his mother came true thanks to an anonymous donor.
The student and the stranger have never met, but the gift is a testament to the giving spirit around the holidays in the community.
Clinch River Community School sits on the hill right behind Anderson County High School in Clinton. It's the district's alternative school, but it's not just for kids who have gotten in trouble. It's a special place and not what many people would expect, according to Assistant Principal Nate Stecker.
Kids can choose to attend the school, and many do because of the smaller class sizes and teacher-to-student ratio. For the kids here, it's more about second chances.
"We love these students, and we want to make sure that they have a good experience with a school setting," Stecker said.
Students like 16-year-old Richard Coker attend the school. You won't catch him talking your ear off. He's more quiet and reserved in front of the camera.
He chose to attend CRCS because he likes the smaller classroom setting.
"I feel like is a really good school for people like me, who have trouble focusing," Coker said.
He's made an impression in the few years walking the halls.
"Ever since I got here, I've progressed more and more, and it's turned me into a better person," Coker said.
The teachers, administration and staff know Coker is a trustworthy student.
"He is super kind," Stecker said. "He is a kid that will go out of his way to do anything to please you, to do what's asked of him, and he is just a very nice guy."
He's the kind of kid whose Christmas wish centered around kin.
"He came to me saying how excited he was to go visit his mother in Michigan, and so the last couple of weeks, we've been talking about that," Stecker said.
It's been almost a year since Coker had a chance to see his mother. He came to live with his father in Tennessee a few years ago.
"It's really tough because I've lived with her all my life, so leaving like that, it's kind of hard," Coker said.
But the best-laid plans for a plane or bus ticket fell through.
"He came in last Tuesday and through circumstances that just didn't happen," Stecker said. "So he was very, very distraught, [it was] very evident."
That's when Stecker started speaking to anyone who would listen in the community. Soon, Coker's story fell on the right ears.
"This person was like, 'Well, we're gonna change that. What does he need?' And that's where it all started," Stecker said.
A complete stranger delivered a Christmas miracle in a big way.
"Not only does he get to fly to Detroit, but he gets to fly in style," Stecker said. "He gets bumped up to first class. They said that's the only way that he should fly."
It's Coker's first-ever flight, and he is traveling straight into a special moment.
"It's gonna be really great," Coker said. "I'm gonna give her a big hug and she's gonna cook me something good to eat."
As he stepped his suitcase through security, his granted wish to see his mom had him thinking of others.
"I'll have to do that for someone else one day," Coker said.
It's all thanks to a community invested in its kids and a building with a heart that's big.
"The Clinton community has come together on this one," Stecker said.
Richard landed safely in Detroit and is reunited with his mom now. He'll come back to Tennessee by Jan. 1.
The donor, teachers from the school and community members all pitched in so Coker can buy his mom a gift while he's up there and to make sure he had money for transportation.