Just like many other moms, Jessica Reboredo worked hard, putting in the hours as a waitress at a Chili’s restaurant to take care of the bills. Her husband Robert, too, paid his way as a carpenter. But the lives of the Henderson, Nevada, couple and their children were changed forever when Robert received a diagnosis of testicular cancer.
Robert was only 24 at the time he received that terrible news. That is, a whole nine years younger than the average age at which men in the U.S. are usually diagnosed with the disease. And the prognosis became even worse when it was learned that the cancer had metastasized to both his stomach and his lungs.
Although testicular cancer kills relatively few people each year, the fact that it had spread was worrying. And even more heartbreakingly, Jessica was expecting the pair’s fourth child at the time of Robert’s diagnosis. The idea that the doting dad might not live to see his new baby walk or talk was now a horrible possibility.
But although Jessica was now all grown up and had a family of her own, one of her former grade school teachers still knew about her family’s plight. Kimberly Hitchcock-Squires had taught Jessica way back when she was just seven years old and remembered her even then as a “sweet” and “kind” person. What’s more, the two had stayed in touch throughout the years. And it would be Hitchcock-Squires who would relate Jessica and her family’s story in a 2016 Fox 5 Las Vegas report on the couple.
Plus, Jessica was equally popular at Chili’s, with both customers and her employers. In the 2016 Fox 5 report her manager Mia Gebhard-Rugerio explained, “Every Chili’s that I’ve worked at, there’s that bond… that’s how it feels, especially with Jessica.” She added, “When I got to this restaurant she was pregnant. And I thought, ‘Great! This is something special that we get to experience with her.’ And then [the cancer diagnosis] happened.”
To make matters worse for the family, Robert’s condition was so severe that he had to have a Flight for Life to a hospital in LA. This was far from where the family lived and where Jessica worked at Chili’s. But the mom-of-four still managed to support her husband from hundreds of miles away. Indeed, in the Fox 5 clip Jessica is seen telling a group of customers that she’d be “heading out at three or four in the morning” in order to make it to Robert’s bedside.
Jessica’s situation, then, was an unenviable one. Not only was her husband fighting for his life, but the distance between them, not to mention her work and family commitments, made things even tougher. And at that point – even despite the support of friends and family – she could not have expected help to come to her in the way that it did.
That help came, moreover, during just another normal day’s shift at Chili’s – or, at least, one that may have appeared normal at first for Jessica. And it was all courtesy of Fox 5’s undercover “Surprise Squad,” which helps people in trying situations such as the one Jessica and her family were going through, trying to ease their problems in whatever way it can.
Fox 5’s incognito team, however, showed themselves only as everyday customers who had simply come into the restaurant to get some lunch. What’s more, there was nothing in their attitudes or ways of talking that suggested anything out of the ordinary. And Jessica was her usual friendly self with each one, while not expecting or anticipating what would come next.
There was nothing odd about the customers tipping Jessica, of course, as they did upon leaving – especially considering her cheerful service. But what went on was much more remarkable: namely, that the Chili’s patrons had started given Jessica unusually large amounts of money for her hard work. “Thank you ladies, you have an awesome afternoon,” she told one group of customers as they were leaving. “Do you need the change at all?” she added. The customer, however, said that all of it – a whole $200 – was for her.
And then things started to get crazy. A second customer handed over $300 while Jessica thanked her for coming. Jessica then took the notes and assumed that she was going to get change for the woman. “No, it’s all for you,” the customer replied. Jessica, understandably, looked really surprised; $300 was a huge tip to give anyone. “Are you serious?” she asked. “You have no idea. That’s a huge blessing,” she added, gratefully taking the large sum of money.
And Jessica must have thought she’d hit a bumper day when it came to tips. After all, that $500 could go a long way towards helping her as she traveled back and forth between Henderson and LA, over 250 miles away. As she took the money both times, she looked stunned.
But it didn’t stop there. A male customer in a green T-shirt sat at the counter. Looking relaxed and friendly, he took out a fan of bills from his wallet and passed them to Jessica. And given that he’d just handed her a $500 tip, it was probably no surprise that the waitress was completely taken aback yet again. “Are you serious?” she said. It was starting to become her catchphrase. But he was, and he fist-bumped Jessica to confirm it.
And after a little while a man in a sharp suit, with the appearance of a business exec, asked her how much the patron at the counter had tipped Jessica. “He gave you $500?,” he said. Jessica nodded. “I’m going to give you $1,000,” he replied. The man then took the bills out of his wallet and placed them in front of a plainly overwhelmed Jessica. It was at this point that she broke down crying.
“You guys have no idea what this means to me,” she would say through tears to him and the rest of the table. Then she leaned in to the man who had just kindly gifted her $1,000 and allowed him to hug her. By now, most of the people in the restaurant, including many of those who had given Jessica heavy tips, were watching and filming the moving scenes on their smartphones. For Jessica, however, it may have still just seemed like another day on the job – albeit one with some very generous patrons.
Indeed, as she thought that the customers had no idea why these gestures meant so much to her, she told them all about it. “My husband is in the hospital,” she explained to the restaurant guests. “I nearly lost him a week ago.” She was struggling with tears now and completely overwhelmed. It was at this point, though, that Fox 5’s Monica Jackson walked into the restaurant to reveal what was going on.
“Is Jessica here?” Jackson asked, as she walked into the restaurant. Jessica nodded – and it looked like she recognized her new guest. “I’m Monica Jackson from the Fox 5 Surprise Squad,” she added. “Oh my God!” Jessica replied, through tears, “This is so amazing.” Then Monica put her arm around her. “We heard what you’re going through from a very special person,” she said.
Kimberly Hitchcock-Squires then walked into the now-crowded restaurant with a beaming smile, holding a huge bouquet of flowers. “Kim!” exclaimed Jessica, when she saw her friend. She rushed over, and the two embraced. And after the pair had parted, Jessica explained what was happening in her life to the assembled crowd. “We got four beautiful little ones,” she said, “and I’ve gotta do it for them.” She also told Jackson what sort of things she had been facing during Robert’s illness. “This week, I had to [visit the hospital] at the drop of a dime, and I couldn’t afford it. I slept in my car for the night.”
But the generosity didn’t end there. Don Forman, the owner of Nevada’s United Nissan dealership, was also in the restaurant. And he addressed Jessica by saying, “We believe the best place for you to be at this time is at your husband’s side, so we’ve put together a little something.” It was then he revealed that he was gifting her $10,000. What’s more, he was going to give her a car to drive back and forth between the hospital and home and had also arranged a place to stay for her in between visits to Robert in LA.
“I had no idea,” Jessica told Fox 5 after her huge surprise. “I thought it was just me and my family out there trying to do this. Trying to keep all of our hopes and dreams alive and bringing Daddy back home.” Sadly, Robert passed away in 2016, but the kindness of others may very well have helped Jessica through one of the most difficult times of her life.