DELAVAN — Brooke Trewyn stood Friday on the stage in a banquet hall at Lake Lawn Resort, feeling her heart beat right out of her shirt.
The 16-year-old Whitewater High School junior watched as, one by one, students from throughout Walworth County grabbed keys from a bowl and tried to start a white, 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt.
If the key that a student picked got the engine going, the student would own the car.
Eleven had tried, and all 11 had failed.
Then Trewyn walked up. She took a key from the bowl, stepped inside the car, closed the door and fired it up.
As the engine idled and a bar of lights on top of the car flashed, the high school students, law enforcement officials and road safety advocates in the room cheered.
Trewyn’s father, Scott, came over and hugged her through the driver’s window.
“I didn’t think it would actually happen,” Brooke Trewyn said.
The program was part of Operation Click, an organization that promotes good driving habits among teenagers. The group gave the car away as part of its campaign to encourage road safety at area high schools.
The students who had a chance to win the 2007 Cobalt had worked to promote safe driving at their schools, Operation Click Vice President Nicholas Pyan said. That included signing contracts to wear their seatbelts, to keep clean driving records, to avoid distractions such as cell phones and to always drive sober, Pyan said.
The organization also holds training sessions at area schools, so teens can simulate drunken or distracted driving to see how dangerous it is, Pyan said.
“To prevent teen fatalities is our main goal,” he said.
Of the students who honored their contracts, 17 finalists from eight Walworth County high schools were chosen to take part in Friday’s ceremony. Only one of the keys would start the car.
It’s a promotion the group has conducted for 15 years. Letting a student drive away with a new ride provides an incentive for teens to follow those contracts, Pyan said.
“That’s why we give away the car,” he said.
As those finalists tried their luck, Brooke and Scott Trewyn waited.
“The tension was building up, building up,” Scott Trewyn said. “Seeing the look on everybody’s faces when the car didn’t start, then all of the sudden being there when it did and watching her expression—it was priceless.”
Scott Trewyn joked that there must be some good luck going around the family’s Whitewater cul-de-sac. The winner of last year’s car giveaway is a neighbor.