Mopper Could Have Cleaned Up

September 04, 1995|By Knight-Ridder News Service

FREMONT, Calif. -- Victor Bacelis had two chances to pocket the more than $600 he found while mopping the soda-slick floor at a McDonald's restaurant in Fremont.

But the Mexican immigrant, who works more than 70 hours a week at two minimum-wage jobs, chose charity over personal gain -- not once, but twice.

Last week, after police notified Mr. Bacelis that the unclaimed money was his for the taking, he said he would donate the cash to the Latino Marrow Donor Program on behalf of 22-month-old Adrian Sandoval. The child is afflicted with a rare genetic disease and needs a bone marrow transplant if he is to survive.

"It's not that much money," he said. "For me, that's a lot of money, but it's just a little for what we want to do with it.

"Adrian Sandoval is a little boy. It really hit my heart, and I said this is what I want to do."

On Memorial Day weekend, Mr. Bacelis found the envelope full of cash while he was cleaning the floor at the McDonald's. Efforts to find the owner -- including running after diners in the parking lot -- failed. So he called police to report his find.

At the time, Mr. Bacelis was working more than 90 hours a week at three jobs, saving money to buy a house. Even so, he said, it never occurred to him to pocket the cash.

This summer, he finally bought a house in Fremont with the help of his brother and sister. He quit his McDonald's job so he would have time to get it into shape.

"Life had been too nice to me. I can work. I'm healthy. I always have money, not big money, but I always have what I need to live," he said.

Mr. Bacelis credits his parents with teaching him about honesty while he was growing up in a village on the Yucatan Peninsula, a town so poor there were no schools.

"We are from a very poor family, we are five children," he said. "When I was young, the most important thing to my parents was to be clean and to be honest."

Mr. Bacelis said he read about Adrian's plight in the San Jose Mercury News, which has chronicled the child's progress since he was diagnosed last spring with a rare genetic immune deficiency called X-linked lymphoproliferative disease. Adrian's parents, Salvador Sandoval and Patricia Muller of Menlo Park, lost another son, David, to the disease in 1991.

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