Garbage man surprises autistic boy with a special gift

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OJAI, Calif. — An excited five-year-old Daniel Mulligan welcomes the garbage truck to his home every week. His parents said Daniel has a love for garbage trucks.  Affiliate KTLA reports that last week’s visit was a little more special for the young boy with autism.

Daniel mother, Robin Newberger, captured cell phone video of driver Manuel Sanchez stopping on his normal route to give Daniel a large plastic bag. Inside the bag, a plastic truck just like the green one that comes by house every Monday.

“You’re not going to believe it, but he had one like this and it broke,” Newberger can be heard saying on the video, which has been seen by more than 700,000 people on YouTube.

KTLA reports that Daniel and his dad take the cans out every Sunday and that he knows exactly which ones are about to be picked up.

“Our recycle man, known only as Manuel, is his favorite. He always has a big smile for Daniel, who is faithfully waiting for him every Monday. To him, trash pickup is like a symphony. He synchronizes his hand movements with the truck,” Mulligan wrote and has since set up a Facebook page in honor of Sanchez’s kind gesture.

Sanchez has been lauded by his company, E.J. Harrison & Sons, which noted that he bought the gift with his own money. Sanchez said he was actually embarrassed after receiving widespread attention, and also said he hadn’t properly wrapped the truck. KTLA reports he issued the following statement:

“That little boy is so special and he will steal anybody’s heart as soon as you see him. I didn’t know what he has, but there’s something very special about him.” 


  • Gerry

    I always feel sorry for the trash truck guys, working in freezing and burning weather. I sure hope they are paid well, but I can only assume that these are entry-level jobs or jobs available to ex-cons. Good thing this is a feel-good story.

  • Cathy Bailey

    Too bad there aren’t more people like this hardworking man. He knew he was special to this little boy; however, he did not know how special Daniel was. It is so nice to see stories like this instead of child abuse stories. Manuel you have a wonderful friend forever. Bless You.

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