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NewsTribune photos/Scott Anderson Peru police officer Mark Credi collects a bag of food from Rodeo Taco, which dedicated its Friday sales to assist Gary Eccles, a retired Peru firefighter and fire chief who is terminally ill. Credi sold “Fighting for Gary” T-shirts at a side table while owners Tomas and Norma Aguilera worked the grill.
Shellie Eccles made a run for lunch at Rodeo Taco wearing a fundraiser T-shirt for her ailing husband, Gary.
The logo “Firefighters for Gary” caught the eye of Rodeo Taco’s owner, Tomas Aguilera, who asked Shellie about Gary.
When Aguilera learned Gary has terminal cancer, he was sympathetic. He’d been raising funds to help his father, who is in Mexico dying of brain cancer.
Then Aguilera made a spontaneous offer that bowled Shellie over. He pledged to hold a one-day taco sale to raise funds for Gary — and she could pick the day.
“He wanted to help someone here in honor of his dad,” a choked-up Shellie said Friday. “We were just overwhelmed with the kindjness of strangers. “Here’s a man who doesn’t even know us — he’s got his own trouble with his dad — and he wants to help us.”
Aguilera, 52, of La Salle made good on his pledge Friday, selling tacos for lunch out of his food service truck parked at the BP station in downtown Peru. To bolster sales, the Eccles family churned out fliers in English and Spanish urging people to support Gary in his battle with adenoid cystic carcinoma, stage four.
Sales went so well, however, that the truck was out of food by mid-afternoon. Peru firefighter Rick Abbott said Aguilera prepared three times the amount of food he usually does but it wasn’t enough — which Abbott sees as a good sign of support for Eccles. Gary was not doing well Friday and was unavailable for comment.
Longtime friend Mark Credi, a Peru police officer, set up a side table by the food truck to sell neon-yellow “Fighting for Gary” T-shirts for $20. Credi praised Aguilera for churning out an excellent taco — the overstuffed tortillas come with a choice of meats and a side of wicked hot sauce — and for his unselfish efforts on behalf of Gary Eccles, a retired Peru firefighter and ex-chief.
“Mr. Aguilera was kind enough to support my best friend and to help Gary out,” Credi said.
Preliminary totals weren’t available before press time Friday, but by several measures the fundraiser was shaping up to be a big success.
Credi said he sold $300 in T-shirts and helped the Aguileras — Tomas’ wife Norma assisted him at the grill — by taking orders from the throng that formed outside the food truck. Credi said he reeled in a single order for 50 tacos to be ready for 5 p.m. and said the crowd had been steady at worst.
“It’s been very good,” Credi said before noon. “He’s making everything fresh to order and people have been patiently waiting.”
Shellie Eccles said they somewhat randomly picked Oct. 4 after Augilera advised them Thursday or Friday are his two best days. Friday turned out to be a better choice than anybody realized.
“Then I heard on ‘Good Morning America’ today that’s National Taco Day,” Shellie observed, stunned. “I couldn’t believe it. I don’t even think Mr. Aguilera knows that. “It was not planned at all. It was just a random day Gary picked.”
Posted: Friday, October 18, 2013
Article comment by:
These were the best tacos.The fact that a small local businessman made the effort, that just added to the flavor!
That WAS some wicked hot sause though.. I put a lot on one taco and two weks later my sinuses are still clear...lol
Posted: Saturday, October 5, 2013
Article comment by:
Great to here about Mr.Aguilera. Kind heart. What are his hours?
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