Former Kentucky basketball player Wenyen Gabriel provides COVID-19 financial assistance to Uber driver who returned wallet
Wenyen Gabriel’s generosity has earned him a new fan.
The former Kentucky Wildcat is the subject of a feel-good story recently published by Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest. Gabriel, an NBA rookie currently with the Portland Trail Blazers, left his wallet in an Uber “a few months ago.” Gabriel could not reach the driver at first but the wallet was returned, leading him to learn of his driver’s health problems.
“He came back,” Gabriel told NBC Sports. “I have this long stairway all the way around to get to the door to my apartment complex. He had to walk all the way to the door and up some steps. He is pretty handicapped, so by the time he got to my door, he was breathing heavily.
“He had struggled to get up there.”
The driver, Jon Barnard, revealed that his knees are damaged by osteoarthritis.
“Walking can be difficult for me,” Barnard said. He asked Gabriel if he could sit down and rest his knees, which led to the two men chatting and getting to know each other better.
At that time, Barnard was reluctant to take a $100 reward for returning the wallet. The impression he made on Gabriel by doing the right thing would lead to a later, larger reward in a time of need.
Gabriel thought of Barnard when the coronavirus pandemic started.
“The coronavirus came after that and I knew he was an at-risk person,” Gabriel said. “He was such a kind person that I believed in him. I didn’t want him driving an Uber anymore.”
Gabriel contacted Barnard to offer some financial assistance.
“The rest of the story is that Wenyen deposited $2,500 in my personal account,” Barnard said. “He was not seeking any publicity. His gift has allowed me to not have to drive. In this time of unrest, I thought it would be a positive story.
“I think the Trail Blazers should know about it.
“What makes it more special to me is that Wenyen is not one of the super-high paid guys on the team. But he still helped me.
“Number 35, I’ll be a fan forever.”