NIWOT, Colo. (CBS4) – He was diagnosed with cancer, lost his job, and couldn’t afford a family Christmas. Then a group of students he didn’t know came to the rescue.
It would be pretty easy to miss Andy Barela in the halls of Niwot High School. He was an after hours janitor and loved it.
“It’s a family-type school and they’ve been there for me,” Barela said.
But in March, his world crashed. Barela was diagnosed with colon cancer. He lost his job and the insurance that came with it because he had to go through treatment.
“I’ve got friends, family; they’re there. They tell me, ‘Keep it going, Andy.’ And I do. I won’t let it take me down,” Barela said.
Mentally, Barela was set, but money was a different story. He was $15,000 in debt and 5 months behind on his rent.
“I had to tell my kids, ‘This is going to be a Christmas we’re not going to have,” he said.
Barela never knew a lot of the students at school, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care.
“I started listening and I was like, ‘Is somebody outside?’ “
It was carolers — a group spearheaded by Niwot students like Katelin Soocee. And they came bearing gifts — $6,000 from donations. The story even made the local paper, the Longmont Times-Call.
“It was killer; it started making me shake — like, ‘Wow.’ “
“I definitely wanted to help. I didn’t want it to be a bad Christmas,” Soocee said. “He helped out our school and made our experience better. I knew I had to help out.”
It just may have help save Barela’s home, health, and his family’s Christmas.
“Wow, that girl. I know her but I really never talked to her, and she did this,” Barela said.
Barela’s doctors tell him he will likely beat his cancer.
Niwot High School says Barella can return to his job whenever he feels ready.
Andy Barela Fund
Donations for Andy Barela and his family can be sent to or dropped off at Niwot High School, 8989 Niwot Road, attention of Debbie Hauck. Checks can be made out to Andy Barela. All proceeds will go directly to the family.