Sione Gutierrez seemed to be bracing for the best. That's right, the best.
The Hawthorne (Calif.)
assistant football coach knew if Ellen DeGeneres and staff stayed true to their generous ways, he'd be an emotional mess.
Ellen, and her sponsors, indeed opened their hearts and indeed Gutierrez was emotional. Who wouldn't be after receiving a brand new Ford Transit Connect SUV — approximately worth $25,000 — and a straight cash donation of $20,000 from Shutterfly.com?
Gutierrez and his wife Vanessa Williams both doubled over several times Monday on the "Ellen" show (it aired Tuesday) when receiving the generous donations.
Members of the Hawthorne football team and its entire coaching staff surprised their coach and team mom on stage at the end of the segment and offered embraces and hankies.
So why all the love and gifts for the Gutierrez-Williams family?
Williams attended a previous show and one of Ellen's producers noticed she was an enthusiastic dancer, which is one of the comedian's favorite activities. While getting some random information, Williams mentioned that she and Sione have four children, and their oldest child Jolene, 9, has Late Infantile Batten Disease (LINCL), a rare and fatal illness.
"She's hanging in there," Vanessa told Ellen on the show. "She wasn't supposed to see 9. She saw 9, thank God. She's fighting and hanging in there and taking names."
The family of six live in a one-bedroom apartment and their family truck is always breaking down. They won't have to worry about that any more.
Gutierrez, who is also a part-time security guard, seemed to move Ellen by his dedication to teenage boys, even though he's got four kids of his own. He told Ellen his coaching stipend is $750 per season.
"The boys (on the team) are the world to me," Gutierrez said. "I'm just paying it forward what another gentlemen did at the beginning for me when I went through some rough times during high school. … My A.D. put me on the football team and it turned me away from drugs and alcohol."
For the football team to celebrate with the couple was icing on the cake, though it made Gutierrez even more emotional.
"I didn't expect them to be here," he told Ellen's Good News
team. "For them to show up, all my boys here, it was just a wonderful feeling."
It wasn't easy to arrange, Hawthorne head coach Donald Paysinger told MaxPreps. The producers of the show called the coach late Friday afternoon, a few hours before the team's game with Culver City.
"We had to get all the kids' release forms and have their parents sign them and
keep it a surprise," Paysinger said. "It wasn't easy but it was worth it. The whole experience was awesome. For everyone."
Paysinger said Gutierrez, a former Cerritos College player, is a first-year coach who was referred to the team by another assistant.
"He's just a real down-to-earth young guy who really relates well to the kids," said Paysinger, a former head coach at Beverly Hills
and Santa Monica
, and assistant at San Jose State. "He's stayed late in the weight room, he does whatever we ask and them some. He talks to the kids about real life stuff. He dove in head first into the program. Beyond coaching, he has really mentored the kids. You don't see that often in first-year coaches."
Paysinger said Williams is equally supportive and selfless. He hopes they continue to be a part of the program, which Paysinger, in his second season, is largely trying to rebuild. Hawthorne, once a Southern California power, was a combined 8-62 in the previous seven seasons before he took over. The Cougars (3-6) close their regular season Friday at Lawndale
"Both of them have been such great additions to our program, so to see the excitement on their faces Monday, and see them still floating the last two days is really great," he said. "It couldn't happen to two better or more deserving people."