Everyone knows that life can be unexpected. Our time on Earth throws up wonderful experiences and amazing opportunities but also some devastating losses. For Nevada’s Cheryl Levy, life had become one tragedy after the next by early 2017. But then her loving daughter decided to do something about it and give her aging mom some richly warranted happiness. The young woman reached out to the producers of a local television feature which recognizes and rewards deserving members of the community. And the TV cameras captured Cheryl’s tears, as the woman who had devoted her life to the gift of giving gratefully accepted a generous gift of her own.
Cheryl lives and works, caring for the elderly, in Las Vegas, NV, and the TV feature in question was Fox5 Vegas’ Surprise Squad. By the time the program makers caught up with Cheryl, she had experienced what the presenter who introduced the piece called, “The circle of life that many adults suffer with, when the child becomes the care taker.” Indeed, as well as witnessing the inevitable deaths of some of her aged clients, Cheryl had also been hit by some tragic personal losses. In addition to her day job, she had looked after her ailing mother, father and then husband, only to have them die in quick succession. By the start of 2017, Cheryl had been left alone with her two grown-up daughters.
And it was one of these women, Jessica, who contacted the Surprise Squad. In her letter to the segment’s producers, she saluted her mother as a caregiver with an enormous heart. She went on to describe how Cheryl’s parents’ deaths had hit particularly hard. Apparently, the professional carer had fulfilled a personal vow to look after her mom and dad until their dying day. Jessica wrote, “My mom has always put everyone first before herself… taking care of the elderly but mostly, taking care of her family.” She also highlighted the lengths Cheryl had gone to in honoring her parental promise. Jessica explained, “My grandfather fell sick and she took care of him everyday in our home.” But as well as suffering losses in her family, there was another devastating death to come for Cheryl.
Ever since 2010, Cheryl had looked after a lady called Bunny. Described as a “wonderful woman,” by Jessica, a beautiful friendship blossomed between client and care giver. So much so, in fact, that Cheryl became Bunny’s live-in care taker, spending every hour of the day with her precious pal. Indeed, Jessica described them as “best friends.”
However, the beautiful bond which had developed between the pair was tragically broken when Bunny died just two days after her 89th birthday. Cheryl still felt the loss keenly in March 2017 when her Surprise Squad episode aired. As a matter of fact, the carer broke down in tears when she spoke about Bunny to Fox5 Vegas interviewer Monica Jackson. After composing herself, Cheryl said, “She was wonderful. I was like a daughter to her and she was like a mom to me. We did everything together.” But Bunny’s passing had other devastating repercussions for the live-in care taker.
Indeed, as well as losing her best friend, Bunny’s death meant that Cheryl no longer had a job. And, as she told Fox5 Vegas, this insecurity left the bereft woman “falling into a depression.” She admitted to the cameras, “If it wasn’t for my daughters, I don’t know where I’d be.” Indeed, it certainly seems like her children played a major part in turning things around for Cheryl. Not least when Jessica contacted the Surprise Squad with her deserving mom’s tale of woe.
The Surprise Squad prides itself on the positive impact that the news feature has on ordinary people. Its biography on Twitter reads, “The Fox5 #SurpriseSquad is proof that acts of kindness can change lives.” The series seemed like the perfect platform to praise Cheryl’s contributions to society, and its producers were warmed by Jessica’s letter.
Consequently, the Surprise Squad cameras, led by Monica Jackson, arrived unannounced at the home of Cheryl’s new client, Arlette. The caregiver answered the door and was surprised by the TV crew, having had no idea about her daughter’s letter. Armed with a sizable red box, Monica presented it to Cheryl, saying, “Since you have taken care of everybody else, we’re going to take care of you.”
After getting over the shock of seeing the Surprise Squad team and sharing her story, Cheryl untied the ribbon and opened the lid of the box. She then gasped in astonishment – nestled within was a $1,000 voucher for a spa day. Through laughter and happy tears, Cheryl gushed “Oh my God, thank you!” The care worker then made a candid confession to the cameras, she admitted that she had never been to a spa before. So it seemed that the Surprise Squad had got their gift just about right!
Subsequently, Monica got on her cellphone to Cheryl’s daughter to give her the good news about the goodie box. After being told what the Surprise Squad had selected as a gift, Jessica laughed, saying, “You deserve it mom. She’s the best person I know.” Jessica went on to say, “She tells me I’m her rock, but she’s the boulder that holds the rock up.” Evidently, Cheryl is just as important to her daughters as they are to her.
It appeared that things were looking up for the care giver. And not just because she had some TLC at a spa day to look forward to. Cheryl’s new job had given her a fresh purpose and a wonderful new client. Arlette’s daughter, Sheryl, was on hand to tell the Surprise Squad that in her opinion, Cheryl was destined to look after her old mom. She pointed out how Cheryl and herself shared the same first name, and revealed that the carer’s surname was actually Arlette’s maiden name. It certainly seemed that fate had intervened nicely for Cheryl.
And Arlette liked her new employee so much that she declared to the cameras, “Her and I will go out to paint the town red.” Watching this feisty old lady speak, it was easy to see how she may have made a big difference to Cheryl with her positive approach. Not to mention cheering her up with the prospect of a crazy night out! Cheryl conceded to Monica that Arlette had “made my life better.”
And it was not just the client herself who had brightened Cheryl’s existence. Her new job has given her a sense of perspective and a clear vision of the future. Having suffered so much emotional turmoil in recent years, Cheryl had reached a new sense of clarity. As she told the Surprise Squad crew, “I have a purpose in life and my purpose is to take care of everybody that I can.” And this attitude has been passed down to her daughters, as a pledge made by Jessica demonstrated.
As we have learned, Cheryl had been determined to look after her aging parents herself and made great efforts to keep them out of residential homes. She was fortunate enough to be able to do that, and took care of both until they passed away. But it was revealed on Surprise Squad that Jessica had vowed to do the same for her mother when the time comes. Cheryl said, “She will take care of me and never ever put me away, just like I promised my parents.”
With a pair of incredibly supportive daughters, a rewarding job and a TLC treat in store, Cheryl – in spite of the sadness she had suffered – counted herself very lucky. Indeed, the care giver did not let Monica and her workmates leave Arlette’s home before imparting some words of wisdom. Cheryl said, “You just have to be good to everybody. God rewarded me so, so much. I mean, oh my God, look what I have here!” But we would soon see for ourselves that the carer had another surprise to contend with…
With a look of trepidation, Cheryl turned to Monica and asked, “This isn’t going to be on TV is it?” Her mouth dropped open when the host confirmed that it would indeed be on the small screen, saying, “This is TV!” Apparently tickled by Cheryl’s innocence, Monica commented on how sweet her interviewee’s question was, considering there were numerous cameras filming that day.
After the item was broadcast in early March 2017, the Surprise Squad producers shared the footage on YouTube. Amazingly, the clip went on to collect more than half a million views. And users of the video-sharing website expressed their appreciation for the filmmakers and Cheryl herself. One commenter wrote, “God bless those who take care of our elderly, such a beautiful story!” Another posted, “Gosh, these are the best videos ever… I love what you guys do so much.”
The Surprise Squad is famed for doing good deeds, rewarding those who deserve it most and expect it least. Its YouTube channel statement details how the news unit makes “the day a little brighter for some lucky Fox5 viewers. You never know where the Squad may show up or what they’ll be doing.” And, with in excess of 120,000 subscribers, it seems that viewers cannot get enough of these heartwarming surprises.
The most-viewed video on the Surprise Squad YouTube channel follows the amazing story of local man Greg Zanis. This retired carpenter voluntarily built a memorial for those slain in the Las Vegas music festival shooting in October 2017. Zanis commemorated the 58 deaths the following month, by erecting as many crosses by the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. For his thoughtfulness, the Surprise Squad gifted the woodworker with a $20,000 grant, plus a new truck and trailer. Many found the video immensely touching, with some saying it left them in tears, thankful that such people are around.
And Cheryl the carer was still doing her bit for the community. When the Surprise Squad waved goodbye to her, the caregiver was truly content in her new role. And she was certainly going down a storm with a grateful Arlette. Monica Jackson concluded the report by revealing that the new client had called the carer “her angel.” What the Surprise Squad did not answer was who Cheryl would be taking with her to the spa. Evidently, that surprise would be for another day…