Angel Echevarria, 31, was homeless for four years.
Tristan McAlister, 17, had a closet full of sneakers worth hundreds of dollars.
Despite their different backgrounds, these two struck up a friendship in the halls of Stafford High School that led to a random act of kindness that led to a viral video that’s been viewed by at least 1 million people.
“I’ve known Angel for two years now and you won’t find a person who appreciates and smiles more than this guy,” McAlister wrote in a tweet he sent out last week along with a video of him presenting Echevarria with a pair of Air Jordan 8 Retro “3peat” sneakers, which can retail for $250.
The tweet has been viewed 89,000 times and the video was seen by more than 1 million people when it was shared on Instagram.
McAlister said he only recorded the video because his mom asked to see Echevarria’s reaction. She encouraged him to share it on social media, but no one expected it to go viral.
“People are noticing when people do good deeds, especially people his age,” Echevarria said.
McAlister, a senior at Stafford High School, and Echevarria, who works for ADM, the custodial service contracted to clean the school, first met two years ago.
McAlister was waiting for his dad to pick him up after basketball practice and was shooting hoops in the gym, where Echevarria was sweeping.
“He amazed me,” Echevarria said. “He shot a basketball from half court.”
The two started talking about sports and sneakers. Echevarria worked nights, so McAlister often saw him at evening sports practices and games, where they’d continue their chats. McAlister is an all-area baseball player and plans to play that sport in college.
McAlister asked Echevarria’s advice about where he should go to college and showed him pictures of his sneaker collection—25-30 pairs of high-end sneakers that he saved up for or received for birthdays and holidays, but that he was starting to sell off because he wanted to “focus on baseball.”
Echevarria told McAlister about his wife and four kids, ages 13 to 3. They share two and two are from his wife’s previous relationship, but “they’re mine now,” Echevarria said.
The loss of both their jobs caused the couple—who met at church—to move from New Jersey to Virginia, where they lived at Loisann’s Hope House for six months before they were able to move into their own rental home in the Olde Forge neighborhood off U.S. 17.
Despite the difficulties he’s encountered, Echevarria is “always happy, always smiling, always appreciative of his life,” McAlister said.
“I’m so thankful to have met him,” the teen said. “He gives me a different perspective on life.”
Echevarria said he’s been “tremendously blessed” since moving to Virginia.
McAlister said he always wanted to buy his friend a pair of sneakers. Early on, he found out they have the same shoe size. But then basketball season ended and he stopped seeing Echevarria as often.
Then Echevarria’s schedule was switched to days. One day, McAlister sought him out and asked his advice on what pair of shoes to buy next.
“He said ‘Oh, you should buy the Jordan 8s,’ ” McAlister remembered. “I asked if he had a pair and he laughed and said ‘I got four kids. I can’t shop for myself.’ ”
Last week, as Echevarria stood next to his yellow cart of janitorial supplies, McAlister approached and presented his friend with a box. Inside, under a sheet OF tissue paper, was a pair of Jordan 8s.
“It was a complete surprise; it tripped me up,” Echevarria said with a laugh. “Out of the blue, around the corner, here he comes holding a shoe box. I thought he was joking with me.”
McAlister said it made him “so happy” to see Echevarria so excited.
Echevarria wore the shoes to watch McAlister play basketball.
He said he was “astonished” to see a young person go out of his way to be generous.
“The times we’re in now, people need good news,” he said.