Many people form close friendships with their co-workers but one Chick-fil-A employee had such a tight bond with her co-worker that she gave her a car!
Haley Bridges, 17, of Appleton, Wisconsin, knew her friend and fellow Chick-fil-A employee, Hokule’a Taniguchi, 19, was commuting to work in the Wisconsin winter by bicycle. So when she learned she had won a car at a company Christmas party raffle in December, she knew exactly who she wanted to gift it to.
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"I started working at Chick-fil-A in late August," Bridges told TODAY Food, explaining that a friend who goes to her school referred her to the job. "I love working here. Not only are the people that work here amazing, but it has taught me so many new things. I always look forward to going to work, I get to see my second family."
She said that her co-workers help one another, even with matters not related to the job. She and Taniguchi, who is from the Kalihi neighborhood of Honolulu, became fast friends in September and hang out outside of work all the time.
"What we do most of the time is chill at whoever's house we choose," said Bridges. "We are very spontaneous, as well as our little close friend group we have."
But it was at the Chick-fil-A Christmas party when their friendship went to the next level. Bridges said the raffle is the main event of their annual Christmas party, and that there was a rumor that there would be a car as the grand prize.
"Everyone would get raffle tickets, and how many hours you work determines how many you get. I received 5 tickets."
The night of the party, the friends arrived at the Grand Meridian, a banquet hall in Appleton, to see that there was in fact a car being raffled off. Bridges said her close friend group has always been willing to help Taniguchi, who they call Hoku, and decided that if any of them won, they would give her the car.
"The car was the only raffle where we couldn’t pool our tickets, one ticket per person," Bridges explained.
"Our friend group and some other friends decided to all put one in for her," said Bridges. "We were all very nervous that someone else would get chosen, but we kept our hopes up."
When Bridges heard her name called as the winner of the car, she said the moment was surreal.
"Once my name was called by one of the bosses, Hoku and I looked at each other, this is when she started to cry. I’ve never seen her emotional side much. She is a very happy person and very funny and goofy as well. We looked at each other and I started to cry as well," Bridged recalled.
Time seemed to stop as the friends realized what had just happened.
"My heart felt as if it was racing and we both stood up and ran to each other. Everyone in the room felt like they were gone, it felt as if it was just us two in the moment. We hugged each other hard and cried so much. Everyone else was either crying or clapping. We all had a big group hug with everyone near us and it felt so unreal experiencing this."
The fact that Bridges had been the one to win the car for her meant everything to Taniguchi.
"Hoku told me that if anyone else in the group won it for her, it would be amazing but not the same. It’s crazy knowing that I was able to give my best friend a car!"
Bridges, who already had a car, has been met with another act of kindness following her generosity.
"My aunt held a fundraiser to get it completely paid off!" she said. "I was paying monthly for the car and it took a chunk of my paycheck."
And while Bridges said her mom was slightly upset that she gave away such a huge gift, she said she has no regrets about her decision. "No one deserves it more than Hoku."
Since receiving the car, Taniguchi's life has changed for the better.
"At the same time she received the car, she got approved to get an apartment which is located closer to Chick-fil-A," Bridges said. "It’s crazy seeing her car parked in the parking lot, and I’m glad that she has a reliable ride to work and the grocery store as well!"
Bridges and her friends have gone for many rides together in Taniguchi's new car. Their favorite destination? The Chick-fil-A drive-thru.