JANUARY 31, 2019 –Luciano Cruz is proof that miracles can happen! And that when they do, they can rekindle your faith and restore hope, even at your lowest moments.
Luciano, or “Chano” as he’s called by his friends, experienced his miracle at the most critical of moments. It took place during an interview that would define his livelihood. In the end, it was Chano’s dedication to our community as proven by ten years of volunteer work and a recommendation letter prepared by Mountain Recreation staff that helped him earn his place in our community.
Growing up in Honduras, Chano competed on a premiere sub-15 soccer team which allowed him to help his family financially. When his career was cut short by an injury, Chano became unsure of his future. He left Honduras in 2005 thanks to a visa lottery and moved to Eagle County.
Several years and many jobs later, including thousands of volunteer hours with Mountain Rec, Chano’s first visa extension expired. Ineligible for a second extension, he faced the prospect of returning to Honduras. Concerned about the severe civil unrest in Honduras where many constitutional freedoms were suspended, his mother advised him to stay.
Chano took his mom’s advice and started the process of becoming a permanent resident with work visa status. This already difficult process took six times the normal timeframe, testing Chano’s will to remain. During this time of uncertainty, he continued volunteering with Mountain Rec, unable to legally work due to his citizenship status yet still desperately wishing to work there.
By virtue of his daily volunteerism, Chano realized his happiness wasn’t the result of wealth or possessions, instead it came from the enriching experiences he helped create for his community. Fate smiled upon Chano as well; it was during this period that he met, fell in love with and married the love of his life, Heather Lee Cruz.
For months Chano diligently collected paperwork to prove his case. Despite his preparation, he was unable to tune out countless stories of immigrants going to their final visa interview only to never return. His anxiety grew. This heartbreaking and defeating fear pressured him to get his affairs in order should the worst-case scenario happen – immediate deportation. Before his meeting, he said a final goodbye to his closest family and friends.
With a heavy heart, Chano entered his visa interview, conducted in his mind by a person indifferent to the prospect of deportation. Feeling like just another name on a piece of paper and under intense scrutiny, Chano was confronted with relentless questions examining the legitimacy of his case and marriage.
It was at this point Chano received his miracle.
While shuffling through his application, the officer asks, “What is Mountain Recreation?”
Chano proceeded to tell the officer it’s an organization that helps his community pursue active and healthy lives. He explains that there is a program and place for everyone and describes the extent of his nearly decade-long volunteer effort there. He reached into his paperwork, a stack over a foot in height, and handed the officer a letter of recommendation that staff at Mountain Rec had prepared for him.
The officer scanned the letter and asks one question, “Do you really want to work there?”
“Yes, more than anything. In fact, if you approve my application I will go to work there tomorrow.” Chano replied.
Time suddenly stopped, the officer reached over to her drawer and stamped his application ‘approved’. She calmly stood and says;” Congratulations, you are a US resident.” Chano was immediately sworn in.
Engulfed in tears, Chano walked out of the room speechless, grateful, and overcome with emotion. He couldn’t believe what had happened and reached for his wife in an embrace filled with relief, joy, and love.
Today you can find Chano working as an official employee of Mountain Recreation. True to his roots and passion, he also volunteers as a coach for Freedom Football Club. In pursuit of his own American dream, we’re all cheering him on as he continues his path past US residence to become a US citizen.
After meeting Chano and learning about his journey I could not help but feel admiration and pride. Witnessing how one person can triumph through a constant wall of adversity to better his life and the lives of those around him fills me with hope and excitement. I was left Imagining the possibilities of what we might all accomplish together using each day to make it better than it was yesterday.
We invite everyone in our community to drum up the courage and confidence to tackle their fears and overcome life’s challenges.
Eddie Campos is the Content Marketing Coordinator at Mountain Recreation.