Hector Andres Zuniga, a 20-year-old non-verbal man with autism, had been going to his favorite local Blockbuster store in Sharyland, Texas since he was 13. The store staff knew Hector Andres and his family well, as they knew Hector Andres loved to rent DVDs like Barney, Rugrats, Elmo, and Blue’s Clues. But one day, Hector Andres’ family heard the sad news that the store was closing down. At present, only a handful of Blockbuster stores are open in the US after the company declared bankruptcy in 2010.
Hector Andres’ mother, Rosa, was pulled aside by one of the staff to tell her the heartbreaking news. She then called her husband, also named Hector, and proposed an idea – that they buy some of the items in the store’s inventory and recreate their own Blockbuster at home for the younger Hector.
Hector Andres, a 20-year-old non-verbal man with autism, loves Blockbuster.
Hector Sr. loved his wife’s idea, so they put together a plan to make it a reality. He told HuffPost:
“[Hector Andres] is a happy-go-lucky kid. He’s all heart, he’s very tender, but like anyone else, he has bad days. And we knew one of those bad days were around the corner when we found out that the Blockbuster was about to close.
“The employees told us when they’d start selling their stock, and when they did, I was one of the first customers in the store.
“Those employees really came out to bat for my son,” Hector Sr. said. “They really paid attention and did a hell of a job.”
When his favorite store was about to close, his family worked with the Blockbuster staff to set up a surprise.
The Zunigas started to sneakily buy DVDs, signs, and even a rack from Blockbuster. The staff also set aside movies they thought Hector Andres would love, and they helped Rosa load her car with the items. On April 23, closing day finally arrived. The entire family, including Hector Andres’ 19-year-old brother, Javier, went to the store and waited until it was almost empty. They brought in Hector Andres and tried to explain what happened.
On closing day, Hector Andres understood the situation.
According to Hector Sr.:
“He made a beeline to the area where he usually rents movies. And there was nothing there. The shelves that usually had his DVDs were already gone.
“He understood, I could see it in his eyes. And he almost started having a meltdown.”
Hector Sr. took his son’s hand and told him it will be okay, that they had a surprise for him at home.
He was later shown the surprise at their home.
At home, Hector Sr. and Javier went to a spare room and set up their own Blockbuster store. An hour later, they brought in Hector Andres to show him the surprise. Hector Sr. said:
“It’s hard for my son to express emotions. But when he saw the room, his eyes were as big as saucers.”
He loved it and thanked his father in his own way.
Hector Andres was surprised and pleased. He approached his father and touched his earlobe, his own way of saying thank you. According to the older Hector, it was one of those moments that parents live for.
Hector Andres, excited to try out his new Blockbuster store, grabbed a few DVDs and went on to watch them. His brother, really amazed by the success of their surprise, shared photos on Twitter. People loved the story and shared them thousands of times. Hector Sr. said:
Every once in a while everything just seems to work. And this time, it just did.”
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