GLENDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- 2020 has been a tough year for so many people, and especially for one Glendale family dealing with health issues and many, many medical bills. One of their friends knew exactly what they’ve been going through and reached out to the Arizona’s Family Surprise Squad in hopes of making the holidays a little bit brighter.
"I’ve known Nichole for a long time," her friend Arlene told 3TV’s Javier Soto. "She just has a really big heart and I just want to give them a peaceful Christmas. And it just hit me: Surprise Squad. Maybe they can help."
Nicole thought it would just be Arlene coming over for a cup of coffee. You could see the surprise in her eyes when she opened the front door and saw Arlene, Soto, and the rest of the crew standing there.
“We just want to lift some of that burden on your shoulders,” Soto explained. “We know it’s been tough medically, those bills are piling up and we just want to help out. Is that okay?”
“Yes,” Nicole said. She called her two children outside, 9-year-old Jojo and 17-year-ol Zachary.
“We’ve got some surprises for you guys,” Soto said as he guided them to a church parking lot right next door to the family’s home. “We talked to Santa, I’ve got a little in with Santa. You ready for surprises?”
Nicole started sharing with the Surprise Squad the challenges her family has been through. “Zachary has been having some health issues for a couple of years now and this year we finally got a diagnosis, an official diagnosis of neurosarcoidosis. Basically, your body attacks itself. He’s done three rounds of chemo so far that have not been effective. The insurance company has fought us every step of the way. They have denied his treatments. It’s been really difficult,” Nicole said.
She then described what Jojo’s suffered through. “This one here has actually had five brain surgeries already. She has hydrocephalus, which is a fluid build-up on the brain. So from one minute to the next I don’t know if a headache is just a headache or if it’s something more serious. I know that no matter what happens, there is a purpose for what we’re going through,” Nicole said.
“How difficult has it been?” Soto asked.
“Oh gosh, extremely. We don’t do a lot of the fun, outside activities that we used to do. We used to love going to Odysea. We were there once a week. It was just an amazing thing we would do as a family,” Nicole said.
“It kind of hurts to see my mom sometimes crying,” Jojo said.
“I just try to keep positive, look on the bright side, help where I can,” Zachary added.
Soto brought out an iPad. On the screen was Santa and Mrs. Claus, giving them a virtual visit from their workshop in the North Pole. After hearing what they wanted for Christmas, Santa had an important message for them. “This is definitely the season to love each other, hug each other, and appreciate our health and our family,” the big guy said.
When the visit was over, Javier pointed out a group of people who had gathered in the parking lot behind the family. They were dressed in festive holiday outfits and were holding lots of presents. “We have our friends from Sam’s Club here,” Soto said. “And they’re all lined up. Satna has sent his folks and his little helpers here.”
The Sam’s Club employees gave the family some gift cards and a free membership to the store. Then one by one, they gave the family their gifts. There were so many, they couldn’t even hold them all in their arms.
“It’s something we love to do,” said Carrie, a manager at Sam’s Club. “Be a part of the community, give back to the community as Sam’s Club.”
“There’s also some more surprises we have,” Soto said once all the presents were passed out. “With the help of Odysea Aquarium, we have some passes for you and the whole family. A year pass to go and enjoy. And on behalf of the Arizona’s Family Surprise Squad and Valley Toyota Dealers, I want to hand you this.” He gave Nicole an envelope.
“Oh my god, thank you,” Nicole whispered as she opened it. She pulled out a piece of paper with the amount of $4000 on it. Nicole immediately started weeping tears of gratitude. “I don’t have words. Honestly, I’m overwhelmed. I really am.”
As the family embraced each other, the merry people from Sam’s Club sang the classic Christmas carol, ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas.’