A five-year-old boy from California obsessed with garbage trucks got the surprise of a lifetime from the garbage man he religiously greets at his family’s home every Monday.
Daniel Mulligan, of Ojai, Calif., became fascinated by garbage trucks as a toddler after his mother, Robin Newberger, showed him YouTube videos of garbage trucks as a way to ease his fear of the trucks’ loud noise.
Daniel, who has autism, is drawn to the order and precision that comes with the weekly trash pickup and the organization of the trash cans, his mother says.
“He knows which trash can is going out on which day and notices them when we’re driving and notices if they’re out of line,” Newberger said. “We will literally be waiting outside for hours on trash day because he hears the truck in the neighborhood and can’t focus on anything else.”
On Monday, Daniel and his parents – Newberger and dad, David Mulligan – did their usual routine of waiting outside for the recyclables collector, Manuel Sanchez, to arrive, when Sanchez surprised them all.
Sanchez, an employee of a private, family-owned trash collection company, got out of his truck and presented Daniel with a toy garbage truck of his own.
The family was even more surprised when they realized it was the same toy truck that Daniel received at Christmas but accidentally broke it the same day.
“It was just amazing because it was the same one and Manuel had no idea,” said Newberger, who captured the moment on her phone and posted it to Facebook. “That made it all the more incredible to us.”
Newberger says that Sanchez jokingly asked Daniel, “Do you want this one too?,” pointing to his real garbage truck.
“I said, ‘He does want your truck,’” Newberger recalled, adding that Sanchez quickly got back into his truck after the exchange in order to finish his route.
Sanchez’s employer, E.J. Harrison and Sons, found out about their employee’s good deed and gifted him with a gift certificate to a local restaurant.
“This was something he did absolutely on his own,” company spokeswoman Nan Drake said of Sanchez, who has worked there for nearly a decade. “We’re so proud of him.”
The video of Sanchez giving Daniel the truck has gone viral, with more than 60,000 shares and 6,000 likes. The response has been so overwhelming that Newberger created a separate Facebook page, “The Gift,” as a place for parents of children with autism to share uplifting stories.
“I asked people to share the gifts about their kids because a lot of times, with kids with autism, it’s just about the struggle,” Newberger said. “I’m glad it’s showing the positive side of autism.”
“The response has been so overwhelming,” she said.