Ten-year-old Ania answered the knock at her door in Garfield Heights. Her mom was on the couch, immobilized by illness.
It was the repo man.
"I thought, 'This is not good,'" said Ania's mom, Diana Parks, who'd had a lot of bad moments this year.
In May, she learned that she has a pituitary tumor. She had seizures and difficulty walking, plus other problems doctors are trying to diagnose.
Parks, a 33-year-old single mother, had to drop out of pharmacy school at Cleveland State University and give up her part-time job in the pharmacy department at a local hospital. She fell behind on payments for her 2011 Nissan Versa, and on bills for rent and electricity.
"I was working so hard so we could do better," she said. "And then I got sick."
On Wednesday, Ania told the repo man that her mom was sick, and that, at that moment, she might be having a seizure.
He said, "You want me to call 911?"
His name is Scott. He doesn't want his last named use, because he thinks this story is not about him.
Parks gathered herself as Ania explained their predicament.
Scott, who works for Relentless Recovery, consoled them for an hour. "And then he was literally crying," said Lisa Wixon, a repo trainee who went with Scott.
"He's apologizing and I'm like, 'Don't apologize, you're just doing your job,'" said Parks.
Scott is one of the most relentless agents at Relentless. He averages more than 70 cars per month.
"I've never let a car go," he said.
But Diana was hurting, her home was immaculate, and her daughter was stunningly polite.
He called his boss, Relentless Recovery co-owner Dave Ziebro.
"I can't do this one, Dave," he said.. "Do what you've got to do to me."
"For him to do what he did, All I could do was say 'Thank you, Lord.'" -- Diana Parks
Ziebro listened, struck by the depth of Scott's concern
"Repossessers are money-motivated people and you can't take too much interest in personal situations," he said. "We've heard it all. We hear a lot of people who try to excuse themselves from their obligations. So to see a guy walk away from a repo and to hear his concern, I was kind of compelled by that."
Scott pulled cash out of his own pocket and insisted Parks take it. He told his boss he'd give up half his paycheck until the car payments were up to date.
But Zeibro and his business partner, Amy Bednar, wouldn't take his money. They agreed to cover her delinquent car payments themselves. Plus next month's. They're looking to help with rent, too.
Then they got Ania's Christmas gift list and divided it among their staff members.
"Trampoline (with net), fake blood, North Face jacket, balance board (gymnastics/cheerleading) ... Spongebob Squarepants Christmas gumball machine, Disney Fairies Tinkerbell bubble fan ... cotton candy maker ... hoverboard ... I really want the trampoline."
And readers who learned of their plight via this story on cleveland.com or in The Plain Dealer were moved to help, too. One offered to help make the rest of the car payments. Another wanted to send a $100 gift card.
On Saturday, Relentless Recovery established an online fundraising campaign at gofundme.com/w3ebj9hc
Parks couldn't believe it.
"For him to do what he did, all I could do was say 'Thank you, Lord.' They're like angels," she said. "My daughter says, 'Mom, there are nice people. I told you it would work out.' She's just ten. And she's right."