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Hundreds in St. Petersburg fill up for free in Rod Wave gas giveaway

The artist gave away $25,000 worth of fuel.
Crowds wait at Rod Wave's gas giveaway event at the Sunoco Gas Station on 34th Street S on Saturday in St. Petersburg. The rap star and St. Pete native gifted $25,000 worth of gas to his hometown.
Crowds wait at Rod Wave's gas giveaway event at the Sunoco Gas Station on 34th Street S on Saturday in St. Petersburg. The rap star and St. Pete native gifted $25,000 worth of gas to his hometown. [ ARIELLE BADER | Special to the Times ]
Published Apr. 9|Updated Apr. 9

ST. PETERSBURG — Hundreds of drivers waited outside a gas station Saturday to fuel up for free, courtesy of native star Rod Wave.

The singer, rapper and Lakewood High School alumnus announced in March he would pay for $25,000 worth of gas at the Sunoco on the 5100 block of 34th Street South, across from Bay Pointe Plaza. His giveaway drew residents to park and wait for hours as gas prices remain higher than they’ve ever been.

Related: How Rod Wave made it from St. Petersburg to music stardom

Rod Wave’s mother, Charmaine Newsome, helped pump gas and organize volunteers, including Lakewood High football players and staff. She said the gesture showed the character of her now-famous son, born Rodarius Green.

“It shows me that he still is humble,” she said.

Green announced the giveaway on Instagram in late March, a month of record-setting gas prices in Florida. Across the state, a gallon of fuel averaged over $4.19 in March. At the Sunoco location, the price Saturday was $4.06 and nine-tenths a gallon for regular unleaded.

Roosevelt Kimble, a coach for the Lakewood football team, said it “wasn’t a shocker” that he would spend his money this way.

“He’s the same funny, humble kid,” he said.

Some fans waited outside to meet the star, who arrived later in the afternoon.

One of the first customers was Ronny Dunner, 39, who said he arrived at 8 a.m. with his twin 5-year-old sons, Rylee and Rylan, who blew bubbles out of the window. Dunner, of Tampa, made sure his tank was empty when he got there.

“My car’s on E,” he said.

Rylee and Rylan Dunner, 5, both of Tampa, play with bubbles as they wait with their dad for free gas during the Rod Wave giveaway.
Rylee and Rylan Dunner, 5, both of Tampa, play with bubbles as they wait with their dad for free gas during the Rod Wave giveaway. [ ARIELLE BADER | Special to the Times ]

Tom Phillips, manager of the gas station, said Green’s team approached them with the idea and organized “90 percent” of it. He and owner Abdul Khan, 54, were on site for the event.

“We obviously made sure we had enough gas,” said Phillips, 65.

Each customer could take up to $50 of gas, or about 12 gallons. By 12:30 p.m., customers had used about $9,000 of the $25,000 tab, he said.

Dash Lang, a linebacker and 16-year-old junior at Lakewood, volunteered. He thought pumping gas on the cool Saturday afternoon was easy work.

“Practice is way worse,” he said.

Green’s career took off after high school, culminating in his 2021 album SoulFly, which hit the top of the Billboard charts.

“I think I’m still in disbelief,” said Newsome, his mother. Back when Green was a teenager, she kept telling him to have something instead of music to fall back on.

“He had a vision, and thank God, it just panned out,” she said.

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Lakewood High School student Dash Lang, 16, of St. Petersburg, fills a car with $50 of free gas at the Sunoco Gas Station on 34th Street South.
Lakewood High School student Dash Lang, 16, of St. Petersburg, fills a car with $50 of free gas at the Sunoco Gas Station on 34th Street South. [ ARIELLE BADER | Special to the Times ]

Phillips estimated Saturday morning it would take three to four hours to run through the donated gas.

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