PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- When a family walked into his hair salon, the chance encounter was the beginning of a life-long friendship between a Phoenix-area man and one of his customers.
“Mercedes is an immigrant from El Salvador,” said John, owner of Giovanni’s, The Godfather of Hair. “Mercedes and her husband and little Cassandra walked in and they wanted a haircut. Little Cassandra is definitely handicapped. She was born with a carotid artery that was undeveloped.
"She couldn’t have been more than a couple years old. They always have to hold her because she would move, and she wouldn’t hold her head still. She couldn’t communicate. She still can’t communicate. It just tore my heart. I just remember how much love they had for their child. She’s had seizures, where they last for up to four hours.”
“How old is she now?” asked Arizona’s Family’s Yetta Gibson.
“She’s going to be 29,” said John. “And basically, Cassandra is a 20, a 29-year-old baby."
Since John met the family, the parents divorced, and Mercedes is caring for her daughter as a single parent. She bought a mobile home last year and John saw so many problems that he decided to nominate Mercedes for help.
“I looked at the air conditioner and I saw things that needed to be repaired and I want her to be comfortable” said John. “Single moms are amazing. They need the help and support.”
John took Gibson and Arizona’s Family Surprise Squad to Mercedes’ home. He told her 3TV was interviewing single mothers and asked if it would be OK for Gibson to talk to her. The friendly woman said yes and welcomed the Surprise Squad into her immaculate home.
[MORE: Surprise Squad stories]
Mercedes told Gibson how John gave her daughter her first haircut and how he’s never charged her for his services.
Gibson asked Mercedes about her day-to-day life. The mother described the difficulty of grocery shopping for heavy items and the struggle to push a wheelchair and a grocery cart at the same time. She said when either of them got ill, it was very hard to continue care. She said the physical struggles of going out kept then confined to home.
“He says you’re always happy, no matter what,” said Gibson.
“No matter what, always happy,” said a smiling Mercedes. “We have God in our life and we enjoy.”
“What keeps you happy?” asked Gibson.
“She, she’s my best friend,” said Mercedes.
“You’ve had some problems, here with your water heater and maybe your AC?" said Gibson.
“It stopped working last summer,” said Mercedes. “They fixed a part to make it work again. For my daughter, I have to keep the house cold. Like in this room, it feels like there is no air blowing.”
While Mercedes talked to Gibson about her daughter, a surprise partner was guided into her home and was waiting in the wings.
“Mercedes, we’re really here with Arizona’s Family and the Surprise Squad sponsored by Valley Toyota Dealers,” said Gibson. “And we’re here with Jay from Penguin Air and they’ve got a surprise for you.”
“We actually have a crew just a couple of minutes down the road and we’re going to install a brand-new Penguin Air Conditioner and Heating System for you on the home, today!” said Jay Kline with Penguin Air, Plumbing and Electrical.
“Really?” said a surprised Mercedes.
“Yes! Yes!” said Jay.
“Thank you! Thank you so much!” said Mercedes.
“It’s a Penguin Air System provided by Goodman and we’re going to go ahead and get that installed for you today,” said Jay.
“Thank you! Thank you!” said Mercedes.
“How are you feeling?” asked Gibson.
“Now I feel good!” said Mercedes. “Now I feel it’s the best day!”
The Penguin Air Conditioning and Plumbing team got to work pulling the old system and installing the new one.
“She’s so positive. She’s so great. She’s so friendly,” said Jay. “So, to have that attitude with still everything that she’s going through, I mean it makes it still that much better to help somebody out.”
“She’s my baby, yes, so I don’t know what I would do without her,” said Mercedes. “We just enjoy each other.”
Mercedes then turned to her friend, John, who was tearing up.
“You are the one that bring them here,” said Mercedes. “Thank you, John! Thank you! God bless you. God bless you! God bless you!”
“You deserve it,” said John.
“Yes, he’s so compassionate, so generous,” said Mercedes. “He help everybody, yes.”
“You deserve it,” repeated John. “You and Cassandra deserve it.”
“Thank you!” said Mercedes. “Thank all of you!”
Thank you to Penguin Air, Plumbing and Electrical for partnering with this surprise.
Arizona’s Family Surprise Squad is sponsored by your Valley Toyota Dealers.