As Justin Reaser lay in an Oklahoma City hospital bed receiving treatment to battle the leukemia he was diagnosed with as a high school freshman, an army of volunteers were working around-the-clock to surprise him with his ultimate dream.
The result -- Justin's 1968 Dodge Charger transformed into a nearly exact replica of the General Lee car from “The Dukes of Hazzard” -– has turned him into a local celebrity.
“I get text messages and Facebook notifications all the time saying, 'I just saw Justin and 'The General' driving,’” his mom, Dawn Reaser, told ABC News. “He takes it to some of the weekly car gatherings and it always gets a lot of attention.”
“In fact,” she added, “We had somebody turn around and follow him to the end of our road because her little son wanted to touch it and Justin let him sit in it and honk the horn.”
Justin Reaser’s journey to local fame began on a less-happy note, in 2012, when he was diagnosed with leukemia the day after Christmas. Reaser, now 17, had to undergo months and months of treatments, and one serious setback of pancreatitis, which left him confined to a hospital bed for much of the time.
To pass the time, the Tulsa teen brought DVDs of his favorite show, “The Dukes of Hazard,” to the hospital and watched them with his dad, Thad.
The father and son share a love of cars so when Reaser was referred by his physicians to Make-A-Wish Oklahoma, his wish was to fix up his 1972 pickup truck.
“When I went out to meet with Justin, he was in the hospital so I met with his dad,” Jeff Summers, CEO of Make-A-Wish Oklahoma, told ABC News. “He showed me the truck but pointed to the garage and said, ‘What he’d really like is to turn that ‘68 Charger in our garage into the General Lee car.”
That revelation from Reaser's dad began a four-months long process of Make-A-Wish volunteers around the country donating their time (over 2,000 hours in all), expertise and needed car parts for the surprise remodel, all while Reaser thought his pickup truck was getting just a little makeover.
“My husband got that car right around the time Justin was born and it was always just a project car,” Dawn Reaser said of the Charger. “But it’s something Justin has liked since he was a little kid and he’d wanted to do that for many years and his dad always said no.
“Seeing Justin so sick, his dad thought what’s it going to hurt, just go ahead and let him have the car and do what he’s always wanted,” she said.
Reaser was surprised with the car at the Tulsa Auto Show earlier this year, where he posed for photographs with the gleaming red car on display, without having any idea it was his family’s old Dodge Charger.
“It was absolutely amazing,” Dawn Reaser said of the moment Justin was told the car was his. “It had us all speechless.”
Reaser, who was not available to talk to ABC News, is now in maintenance treatment for his leukemia, taking chemotherapy pills daily and going to the clinic monthly for additional treatment.
The most exciting news for Reaser, according to his mother, is that he will be back in school this fall for his junior year and is cleared to play sports once again.
“The General,” as the family calls Reaser’s set of wheels, will likely not be going with him daily to school, however.
“It’s the one car that stays safely in our garage,” Dawn Reaser said. “He drives it occasionally, if he goes out with his girlfriend or his sister, but it’s not an everyday car.”