Mario, a formerly homeless vendor of The Contributor, recently reunited with his daughter after 16 years of not seeing each other.
His daughter, Dulce Arauz, along with his brother and niece, planned the surprise reunion three weeks ago.
“(I was) shocked and overwhelmed and happy,” Mario said. The father and daughter were unable to see each other for years due to his lack of reliable transportation and money to visit Arauz in Texas.
“We kept in touch, but not as often as I would have liked to. But now that we’ve seen each other again, I told her life is too short and we’re not going to go this long without seeing each other or at least contacting each other,” Mario said.
Arauz said the moment of reuniting is one that she will never forget and the meeting showed her – and her husband – that she and her dad “are totally alike.”
She gifted her dad a night at the Opryland Resort – where she was staying – and Mario treated the couple to a tour of downtown, including The Contributor’s office in Downtown Presbyterian Church.
Mario started selling The Contributor in 2012 with his dog Bear by his side at the Jackson Downs Shopping Center in Donelson. He became homeless after he was forced to close his log cabin staining business during a dip in the economy. In 2016, Mario purchased a home with profits from selling The Contributor and his lawn care company, “Bear Care Lawn Service," that he started with his paper profits.
Three weeks ago, he got to show off his home to his daughter.
“It was a great feeling. He came up from the bottom to getting a house,” Arauz said. “His new home was so nice and to think he did this all on his own was even more rewarding.
“I’m proud to call him my dad.”
She added that the trip changed her views on people experiencing homelessness. “His genuine and caring personality with all the stories he told me changed my way of thinking of people.”
The surprise reunion rejuvenated their father-daughter connection, and now the pair are communicating frequently.
“I never realized how precious family is and once we reunited this last time, it’s very precious,” Mario said. “It’s important that you keep in touch with your family because you just never know, tomorrow you may not see them again. It’s important to keep in touch and that’s what we’re going to do.”