Roberto Morales called his supervisor Pete Myers 13 years ago to ask for the day off because his family had just been in a terrible wreck on the way to school.
Morales would need months off work from Conditioned Air Systems in Gainesville to care for his then 2-year-old son Eric.
The North Hall teen broke his neck in the wreck, injuring his brainstem and cervical cord.
“It just hit home for all of us,” Myers said. “Roberto is a super nice guy, and a good father. It takes a special man to be a good father, a husband and to care for a child who is disabled.”
Today, Eric has high cervical quadriplegia, or paralysis from the neck down, chronic respiratory insufficiency, G tube dependency, complex partial seizures and tracheostomy and ventilator dependency.
The Morales family was in desperate need of a new van to transport Eric to his numerous doctor appointments in Atlanta. The family’s 1999 Chevy Astro was “on her last leg” and wasn’t technically wheelchair-accessible anyway.
They started a GoFundMe account to raise money, but Roberto Morales’ employers at Conditioned Air Systems decided to step in and give the family what it needed.
“A couple months ago, I saw an article in the paper about Roberto’s family needing a van,” said Doug Magnus, president of Conditioned Air Systems. “I thought about it and said, ‘What can we do? We need to do something.’ This company’s been here 33 years — Roberto’s been with us 15, and he’s a wonderful and dedicated employee.”
Magnus presented the Morales family with a new wheelchair-accessible Honda Odyssey in a company party Tuesday. The family did not know they were receiving the van, which has automatic doors, a ramp that releases automatically and a full back seat with tan leather interior.
“Mr. Magnus is a giver,” Myers said. “I’ve been here 28 years, and he’s instilled in all of us in management positions to be givers. He’s a wonderful man, he gives back to the community and he’s taught all of us to give back to the community, as well.”
Magnus worked with Butch Miller and Milton Martin Honda to get the van for the Morales family.
“A lot of people seriously come to me and say they know someone I should give a vehicle to,” Miller said. “But Doug and Diane Magnus and their children, and their children’s spouses — and the associates and employees of Conditioned Air Systems — put their money where their mouth is. I respect that, especially with my background in the automobile business and having two disabled children.
“I know what it takes to care for a disabled child, and I know it’s 24/7.”
Roberto and his wife, Cristy Morales, expressed their gratitude to Magnus with eyes full of tears.
“I want to thank Mr. Doug for his help, and this is really a big help,” Morales said. “It is real hard to try to get (Eric) in the van we have right now and to move him around. At least this one part, we don’t have to worry about anymore.”
He said caring for Eric isn’t easy, and the generosity of his employers has made it easier over the years.
“There are some scary times,” Morales said. “Sometimes we just think he’s not going to make it out of an episode. But day by day, we get up and we’re grateful we get to see him one more day.”