Family members in Texas thought their father had passed away. But on Tuesday, thanks to social media and the kindness of a special friend from a local store, a homeless man named Tony was reunited with his family for the first time in more than 20 years.
Pedro Abrego, also known as Tony, is homeless in north suburban Round Lake Beach. For the last 10 years, Juan Samhan, who works at a local liquor store, has been helping Tony, and the two have struck up a friendship.
“When it's really cold out, I used to take him to the shelter in Waukegan," said Samhan. "You know, when I see him, it just kind of makes my day."
Last week, Tony asked him for the most important favor yet.
"He told me that he was looking for his kids and he wants to see them before he dies," Samhan said.
So he posted Tony's photo and the request on Facebook, and it got hundreds of shares. Just two days later, he received a message.
"His daughter inboxed me and she said they've been looking for him for years and they didn't know he was alive," Samhan said.
On Tuesday, Tony spoke to his 27-year-old daughter for the first time by phone-- a call more than 20 years in the making.
“Make me cry," Tony said. "It broke your heart."
"I love my kids," he added. Tony said he lost touch with his four children in Texas after he separated from their mother. Hard times prevented him from finding them sooner, which he said he regrets. But now, he is simply thankful.
"Juan is a good man, a nice man, he has a good heart,” Tony said through tears.
“It's been a long time but we finally got him good help,” Samhan said.
His daughter told NBC 5 that she knew instantly by his photo that Tony was her father, and that she and her siblings are overwhelmed. They asked for privacy as they process everything that's happened, she said, but they are grateful their father is alive and they forgive him.