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Mom grateful for unexpected automotive gift

Ashley Cruz her daughter Isabelltheir home Oswego Ill. Tuesday Dec. 18 2012. | Mike Mantucc~ For Sun-Times Media

Ashley Cruz and her daughter Isabella at their home in Oswego, Ill. on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012. | Mike Mantucca ~ For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 20, 2013 6:14AM

There’s no doubt that terrible things are happening right now and, for many, it’s hard to focus on the true meaning of this holiday season. Ashley Cruz, a mother of two from Oswego, was dealing with this Saturday morning, following the massacre in Newtown, Conn.

“It made me sick. I couldn’t sleep,” she said.

But a little of Cruz’s faith in humanity was restored that afternoon after an unlikely encounter.

With her young girls in tow, the stay-at-home mom made a pit stop at Discount Tire in Oswego to have a leak in her tire patched up. The trip turned into a headache when the serviceman told her front two tires were legally bald. The back two, punctured by pieces of metal, were also in bad shape.

“Basically, he said it would be dangerous to drive on them,” she said.

Cruz got on the phone with her mother and her husband, struggling to come up with enough cash on the spot to have them all replaced.

“My daughters were running around, and I must have looked very stressed,” she said.

On the phone, she wasn’t having much luck. Cruz said she was convinced she was going to have to drive away with her tire problem unsolved.

“(The serviceman) came over, gave me my keys, and said, ‘You’re all set’,” Cruz recalled. “I thought: ‘Oh my gosh, did he actually put the tires on? I told him not to. Can I tell him to take them back off?’”

She said she called around some more, trying to rummage up the cash.

“I told him I was working on it, but he told me I was fine. He said, ‘You have a zero balance. Merry Christmas.’,” Cruz said. “I was almost in tears already. What do you mean I’m fine? Who did this? He told me not to worry about it. That I had four new tires and was safe to drive.”

Cruz said she thanked the serviceman and went on her way. When she got home, she posted the good deed on Facebook, and figured out that it was the serviceman himself who had paid for her tires.

“My daughters made him thank you cards, and cookies, and we got him an ornament,” Cruz said.

She took the care package back to Discount Tire, where employee, Bryan Ardelean, turned a shade of rosy red.

“I think he was a little embarrassed. He didn’t want to take any credit for it. He did it with the bottom line of helping me out, not getting credit for it whatsoever,” she said. “He has no idea how much this helped us out.”

Cruz said her husband works 50 hours a week to help support their family, and during the holidays, times are tough.

“What (Bryan) did for me restored my faith. My daughter asked, ‘Isn’t it his job to put tires on the car?’ I explained to her that he brought the tires. She asked, ‘Is he our friend?’ I told her he is now,” she said. “He did this out of the kindness of his heart. It’s nice for my kids to see a stranger doing something so kind. There’s still kindness in the world. It’s not all that bad.”

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