MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- There were a lot of hugs, and a lot of tears for Jacquie Gallo. The Valley mom is retiring from the City of Mesa's Parks and Recreation Department after 31 years of service.
"It's hard because you build relationships, and you just don't walk away from your family," said Gallo.
As recreation director for Mesa's Adaptive Program, Gallo has devoted her life to helping young people with disabilities.
She's organized weekend and summer camps, after-school programs, sporting events, cooking classes, and the list goes on.
Nights and weekends have been part of the job, and that's just fine with this kindhearted counselor, who's provided opportunities for kids they may never have had anywhere else. "Just to see their faces, and sense of accomplishment and their confidence, having them be part of our programs," said Gallo. "The smiles on parents' faces; it's been very rewarding."
Mark Grant has worked with Gallo since 1990, and has seen how devoted she is to improving the lives of special needs children.
Grant wanted her to know how grateful the community is, so he reached out to CBS 5 to Pay it Forward to Gallo and give her a $500 gift card.
"I saw your program, and I was like, what a great idea," said Grant. "It's a great platform for something like this."
A CBS 5 news crew showed up at Gallo's office for the big surprise. "For all your dedication, your huge heart, and the impact you've had on the kids and their lives and families lives," said Grant. "It's just totally amazing, and City of Mesa has been lucky and blessed to have you."
"On behalf of the City of Mesa and Channel 5 we want to give you this $500 gift certificate."
"I hope I've made a little bit of a difference," said Gallo. "They've given me more than I have for them, that's for sure."