PHOENIX — You've heard of the phrase 'everything happens for a reason,' and for one group of strangers now turned friends, they believe that saying holds true.
Rakia Finley says she was celebrating her birthday with friends when they decided to watch the sunrise at Papago Park. That's when they met Chuck Keels, who was at the park hiking that morning.
"They started loving on Jax and I told them Jax came into my life as a service dog after stage-four cancer," said Keels.
Finley had her camera with her and filmed their encounter as Chuck told them about his miraculous recovery from cancer. He then gave them bracelets to his nonprofit, Living Hope Cancer Foundation. The friends put the bracelets on and left.
But less than 30 minutes after that meeting, the car Finley and her friends were driving in crashed.
"We didn't realize there were so many curves that we went over the median, causing us to go out of control a little bit and flipped four to five times," said Finley. "I was thinking like, 'when are we going to stop flipping?' Because I could feel every single flip."
The friends had some cuts and bruises, but surprisingly everyone was OK.
"In my mind, I was like, 'it's my turn,'" said Finley. "I'm very blessed to be alive."
When the friends got home, they noticed that the bracelets Keels gave them were on their wrists the entire time. The bracelets have the phrase 'get up and live' transcribed on them.
"We looked down and gasped because it said, 'get up and live', and we all did just that," said Finley.
'Get up and live' is not just Keels' slogan for beating cancer, but anything in life.
"I really felt this was a guardian angel," said Finley. "I don't know what would've happened, because I'm so spiritual, if we didn't get these bracelets."
Finley tracked Keels down through his website and the group arranged a meeting to reconnect.
"I definitely wanted to thank him personally," Finley said.
From strangers, to now friends, Keels said he will always be there for the group of friends.
"We thought it would be good to have some type of reunion just to catch up and also to let them know that no matter what happens here on out, you always have someone you can call. I want to check in with you guys. I want to know what you're doing," Keels said. "I don't believe in luck or chance. I believe that things happen for a reason."