By RYAN WOLF, KABB
SAN ANTONIO (CIRCA via KABB) — When night falls over a Sonic restaurant southwest of San Antonio, Antonio Lopez, a cook at the drive-in, gets ready to settle in.
"That's the inside of the store,” the 32-year-old said in a video he recorded on his cellphone. “That's where Daddy works.”
Lopez recorded himself walking into the restaurant's bathroom. He showed a blanket and pillow next to the toilet.
"This is where Dad sleeps,” he said in the recording for his newborn son. “Right here until the morning."
He explained how it’s a welcome retreat from his ragged tent out in the cold.
"Just so you know how hard Da-da is working, son,” he affectionately said.
The hauntingly beautiful video was posted online for his 4-month-old son, Ray. Lopez shared how he wants Ray to one day see the sacrifices he’s made to help support his family. A co-worker shared the video with KABB's Ryan Wolf.
He visited with Lopez in the parking lot before one of his shifts.
“Antonio?” Wolf asked. “I'm Ryan Wolf from Fox San Antonio.”
Lopez had no idea why he was there.
“We’re here because someone you know shared with us how you’re an inspiration to them with what you’re doing to help support loved ones,” Wolf said.
Lopez agreed to show Wolf where he sleeps most nights behind the restaurant’s dumpster. A tattered blue tent, about 8 feet in length, was set up there—away from public view.
"I've been staying here for months,” Lopez explained.
What little he had inside was damp from rain that had seeped in from torn sections of the tent.
"What's this box for?” Wolf asked after the tent was zipped open.
“Because this thing doesn’t close all the way, I use it for my trashcan and when I close it," Lopez explained. "It stops the wind from going in there."
Lopez said someone wrecked his family's only car shortly after the birth of his son. Faced with the reality of possibly losing his job over transportation issues, Lopez made the decision to sleep five nights a week outside the restaurant.
"Me as a man, I'm trying to do everything I can for my son,” he told Wolf. “Even if that means having to sleep where I work at just to work and provide for my son.”
Abandoned by his parents, Lopez said he grew up in the foster care system. He struggled to make ends meet and admitted to breaking the law to try to support his older two kids. He spent a year in federal prison. They're decisions he's vowed not to make again.
"I cry every night,” he told Wolf outside his tent. “I really do. It's real hard for me, sir. I'm more embarrassed then anything, but I'm trying to do whatever I can to provide for my son."
Lopez had no idea he was nominated on KABB's Cash for Kindness. Wolf read to him how his dedication to family and work inspired a co-worker to nominate him for the program.
“I think he deserves this because I don't know anyone who would camp outside in the cold or the wet weather just to get to work to provide for his family," Wolf said, reading from a paper.
Lopez said he thought only his girlfriend cared about the sacrifices he’s made.
“How do these words from a co-worker make you feel?” Wolf asked.
"I'm not a homeless person,” he said after lifting his head that he rested on his knees. “I'm not a bum. I'm out here working and doing what I have to for my son. And I'm not out there asking people for a handout. I'm doing what I have to do. I'm working."
Wolf pulled out a stack of $100 bills and handed the money to Lopez.
"$500, $600, $700, $800. $900, $1,000,” he counted. “Man, this will really help me out a lot. It really will. I really am grateful. It's been hard and this will really give me a break on something, man."
Wolf urged him to use the money to help with transportation. A friend currently drives him to Sonic before his 5-day stretch at work and then gets picked up afterward so he can be with his family for the other two days a week.
Lopez later told KABB that he purchased a gas-powered bicycle with the money. He said he no longer needs to sleep in the tent with his new mode of transportation. He currently lives with his girlfriend and infant at a relative's home in a nearby town.