TOPEKA, Kansas (WIBW) -- One single mother of four received the keys to her new house Tuesday morning, but wasn't expecting what was inside.
Dawn Pershall and her four kids are proud to say they own a home.
After what Dawn describes going down a rough road of losing the house that she rented and tirelessly working to provide for her kids, the kindness of strangers and loved ones helped her achieve the ultimate dream: home ownership.
Her new home is a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house at 2321 SE Kentucky. To make the surprise work, Habitat For Humanity workers told her she couldn't come by the house at all. She had no idea what she would pull up to Tuesday morning.
"Words can't express how I feel right now," Dawn said in disbelief as she took in her surroundings. "This is what I'm looking for as the new beginning for me and my kids."
Dawn was accepted to receive a Habitat For Humanity house and worked 200 equity hours to earn it, somehow finding time outside of her 40-hour-per-week job at Midland Care.
Warrick Dunn, a former NFL running back whose charity helps single parents in honor of his own mother, wanted to make it easier, surprising her with a $5,000 check for the down payment.
"A lot of these single parents, their backs are against the wall, once they move into the home, they're going to take care of it, they're going to cherish it, the kids are going to love it - because they've worked so hard to get there," Dunn said.
His mother was an off-duty police officer in Baton Rouge and took care of six children on her own. She murdered by three robbers when Dunn was only 18. She had always dreamed of home ownership, and inspired Dunn to begin his charity.
"I understand the journey. One of the premises behind this is people can afford to save for their down payment and they can't fully furnish the house, and vice versa. Once they move in, sometimes they default on payments only because the funding is not there."
Topeka organization Advisors Excel jumped in with Dunn and donated $50,000. Both organizations furnished the entire home. From the couches, the beds, the TVs, the stocked kitchen, right down to the toothbrushes and toilet paper, all the Pershalls have to do is bring their clothes.
This blessing comes at a time that is bittersweet for Dawn. Five years ago on September 11, she lost her mother to cancer.
"I know she's looking down on us right now and she's very proud."
The kids are ecstatic to have their own rooms, and even brand-new toys.
"To see my kids come through here is just so exciting," Dawn said. "I'm just so grateful for everybody and everything. This is my house, this is mine now."
Warrick Dunn Charities has helped 128 single parents get access to basic necessities for their families. The organization is based out of Atlanta and usually reaches out to southeastern homes, but was happy to extend to Topeka.
Aaron Furniture provided the furnishings.