WOONSOCKET - It's metallic black, and rides like a dream.
That's how North Smithfield resident Tracy Harnois described her brand spankin' new 2011 Buick Regal Turbo, which was presented to her Friday afternoon by General Motors and Paul Masse Buick-GMC-Cadillac as a gift courtesy of the Ellen DeGeneres Show, an hour-long, five-day-a-week, talk/variety show.
Last October, Harnois, 25, a longtime viewer of the show, visited the show's Web site and stumbled on a link that explained how viewers can be part of the studio audience. All she had to do was write a letter telling her personal story about how she was coping with the bad economy and the challenges of making ends meet.
Harnois had plenty to write about. In her letter she described how her husband, Franco, had been deployed to Afghanistan in September, and how she has been struggling to make ends meet as a military wife raising their seven-month-old daughter, Kylie.
A few weeks after she sent the letter, Harnois got a call from the show's producers telling her that she, her daughter and her mother were all being invited to attend a taping in California.
During the show - and to Harnois' utter surprise - she was asked by Ellen DeGeneres to come forward and take part in the show's new game, Who Dat?, in which contestants must be the first to hit a buzzer once they figure out the identity of doctored photos of celebrities.
But the game wasn't real. The other woman she was competing against wasn't another audience member, but a member of the show's crew.
It was all a set up aimed at surprising Harnois with not only a new 2011 Buick Regal Turbo, but a videotaped message from her husband, Franco, who appeared on the show via satellite video.
"I was so surprised," Harnois says. "The whole time I thought I was just going to be just sitting in the audience."
The car give-away was part of the show's partnership with Buick and their Drive Good Campaign. As part of the campaign, Buick donated $1 to Feeding America for every "like" hit they got on Facebook
While Harnois was able to get an up-close look at the car that day on the show - they unveiled it onstage with a big red ribbon - it wasn't until Friday that she finally got to drive "her" car home after being presented with an identical vehicle at the Paul Masse Buick-GMC-Cadillac dealership on Fortin Drive, where sales manager Rick Mignanelli made the official presentation. After the presentation, the dealership offered test drives of the new 2011 Buick Regal Turbo to guests.
"I'm so thankful to the Ellen DeGeneres Show and Paul Masse Buick-GMC-Cadillac for this beautiful car," Harnois said. "I was so nervous driving it home. It rides so beautifully."
The mid-size sedan is also a lot safer than her old 2001 two-door Honda Civic.
"Now, I feel a lot safer driving with my baby," she says.