After being pulled over for speeding in North Carolina in March, Ashlye Wilkerson was not expecting a mundane traffic stop to lead to a moment of prayer with a lawman.
As they were returning to Columbia from her dad’s cancer treatment at the Duke University medical center, Wilkerson and her father, Anthony “Tony” Geddis, noticed blue flashing lights behind them as they traveled down I-85. Those lights were from the car of state trooper Jared Doty.
What happened after would be something special that none of them will ever forget.
“It’s not every day that you’re stopped by a trooper or police officer for an infraction and they are concerned, and they care enough to ask you how you’re doing,” Wilkerson said.
When Doty approached the vehicle, Geddis came to Wilkerson’s defense, telling the officer she didn’t notice the speed limit change while they were on their way back from his cancer treatment.
“He said no, ‘I wouldn’t want you to get in trouble because of me, I wouldn’t want that on my conscience,’ so I said okay,” Wilkerson said.
Looking into the car, Doty could tell that Geddis had been suffering, and the trooper felt a sense of compassion. He knew he had to do something more than issue a regular speeding citation.
“He looked tired and weak. My heart just went out to him at that time, but there was something that I just felt, like I just related to him on a different level,” Doty said
“I went back to my vehicle, and I wrote a warning ticket to her. I don’t know what it was, I felt like it was the Holy Spirit telling me to do more than just handing her a warning ticket and telling her to be careful,” Doty said.
He returned to Wilkerson’s car with a small metal cross in hand. Doty approached the car and had an interaction with Geddis where he learned the type of cancer he had. When learning that, all he could do was ask him if he would join in prayer. The moment that was shared between the three of them.
“I had some crosses in my car. I just felt led to take one back up on the second approach. I had it in my right hand,” Doty said.
“I asked if I could pray with him, and he welcomed the prayers. We just joined hands; I had the cross in my hand, and I put it in his,” Doty said.
After the prayer, Wilkerson and her father went on their way and Doty went about his.
Tony Geddis passed away two months later from his complications with colon cancer. As a part of her mourning process, Wilkerson posted a photo her father and Doty engaged in prayer. In the caption she spoke about the love for her father and the scene that they shared with Doty.
That post went viral on social media with more than five million views, more than seven thousand comments, and 100,000 reactions on LinkedIn.
“Some people resonated with it because of their faith, because of the grief, because of their connection to cancer, whether it was a survivor story or a family member who passed from cancer, some resonated with it because of the example of the officer,” Wilkerson said.
Because of what happened, a relationship began between Wilkerson’s family and Doty. They formed a friendship and still keep in contact.
“She (Ashlye) sent me a text to wish my daughter happy birthday and to wish me a happy Father’s Day. I know we’re going to keep in contact as the future goes and it’s just been a good thing for us to communicate with each other,” Doty said.
In honor of her father, Wilkerson has started to raise awareness for colon cancer. She has started scholarship funds in her father’s honor at his alma mater, Keenan High School, and at Heyward Career and Technology Center in Richland District One. Earlier this year, a group of students at Keenan and Heyward received the inaugural Anthony “Tony” Geddis scholarships.
She has also begun a colon cancer awareness project.