MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We’ve been following the recovery of a Minneapolis police officer who desperately needed a kidney donor, and found one after a two-year search.
The donor was 20-year-old Sebastian Rivera, a University of Minnesota student whom the officer had never met.
Rivera and Officer Carlos Baires Escobar underwent surgery successfully in January. But just days before the operation, Rivera totaled his car.
A few weeks later, as a thank you, Escobar turned to Facebook to try to raise money to fix Rivera’s car.
That’s when another stranger stepped in to help.
A retired Minneapolis police officer saw the story on WCCO, and he offered to do the work himself — for free.
But the damage was too extensive, so he went on Craigslist and bought another car that’s the same make and model.
He did some work on it, and then called MAACO and Best Buy to ask them to get on board.
We were there Wednesday in the garage of the MAACO in St. Louis Park to see the 2000 Mitsubishi Eclipse, freshly painted and ready to be handed over to its owner.
“There’s your car, there you go buddy,” Escobar said to Rivera as the student stood in amazement, quietly shaking his head.
This was a cleverly-orchestrated surprise.
Rivera thought he and his mom and brother were just meeting Escobar for lunch. He didn’t know that a retired police officer had quietly worked to get a used car all fixed up for him at MAACO, and then hooked up with a new stereo system at Best Buy.
“I think that if everybody did just a little bit of good deeds every now and then, it would go a long way,” Escobar said. “It’s in our nature.”
Rivera knew his car was getting repaired, but had no idea so much work had secretly been done for him by people he never even met.
“I did it, I did the same thing, you know. I helped a stranger just because I thought it was the right thing to do,” Rivera said. “And expecting someone to do the same thing that I did? It’s just mind-blowing.”
He said he can now drive himself to classes at the University of Minnseota and look for a better part-time job.
“I can help my mom with anything she needs,” Rivera said. “Go take my brother to school. Yes, this is going to help me out a lot actually.”
Vanessa Cintron is his proud mother.
“This world needs gratitude,” she said. “We have to remind [ourselves] to be grateful. With the car, without the car, we are grateful.”
Andy McClure is the owner of this MAACO in St. Louis Park.
“We all agreed this would be a fantastic thing to be involved with,” he said. “I was the lucky one who was able to do the work here at my shop. It was a great experience, especially meeting Sebastian.”
The retired officer who pulled this all together did not want us to use his name.
Rivera said he’s changed his major from graphic design to global affairs. He says the experience of becoming a kidney donor has changed him. He wants to focus more on helping the community and encouraging people to be more socially aware.
“That’s what I want to do, start talking to people and telling them, ‘Hey, you can change the world by yourself, or you can change someone’s life. You can change your life,'” Rivera said. “But you have to get up and do it.”
As for the health of the two of them, Escobar was back at work one month after the transplant, and now he’s out and about on the streets as a member of the Community Engagement Team.
Rivera just had his 21st birthday last weekend, and he is doing well also.