By Mary O’KEEFE
A year ago local resident Mario Licu parked in the Big Lots parking lot in La Cañada preparing for a normal day of shopping, but the day did not go exactly as planned.
“It just happened by chance that, as I walked through the parking lot, I noticed a shopping cart heading down the [hill] straight for traffic,” he said.
The shopping cart was not empty; there was a small child in the child seat and his mother was yelling as she helplessly watched the cart roll toward Foothill Boulevard.
“The mother was pregnant, and hysterical,” Licu said.
Licu rushed to stop the cart before it got to the street. He pushed the cart back to a grateful mother.
“She was still crying and thanked me over and over again,” he said.
Licu made certain the child and mom were okay, then went into the store to shop.
“When I came out of the store, she had left a note on the car door thanking me again,” he said.
At first he didn’t think much about it but over the last year he thought of the child often, replaying the incident in his head.
“I wished I knew how to reach out to [his mother],” he said.
Licu is known to many as Santa Mario because he is a professional Santa Claus who works at several local venues, including the Los Angeles Zoo. He wanted to find out how the child was doing and also wanted to invite the family to the LA Zoo.
“I also work at private parties, other [venues] and occasionally fill in at the Americana,” he said.
Every place he went, he always had this little toddler and his mom in the back of his mind hoping to see them again.
Then a few months after that encounter he parked his distinguished vehicle, a red car with a reindeer nose, in a parking lot in the 700 block of Foothill Boulevard to get something to eat.
“When I came out there was a note on my car from the mom, introducing herself and thanking me again,” he said.
Unfortunately he did not have a way to contact her.
Then a few days ago, she walked into Massage Envy where he works part time. Now they have exchanged names and contact information and he has found out that the young boy is doing fine, as is the entire family.
There is a Chinese proverb that states if you save someone’s life you are responsible for that life. In a way Licu agrees; he feels a connection with the family and is glad he can now follow how they are doing.