ORACLE, Ariz. (KGUN) — It was a day where dreams came true.
Ricardo Valdespino was able to give his grandchildren the surprise of a lifetime at YMCA’s Triangle Y Ranch Camp.
“So I want to introduce to you, our new Chef, Papa Ricardo,” said Andy Hockenbrock.
Hockenbrock is the Executive Director at camp. After the kids finished up an activity, Hockenbrock announced that the camp had gotten a new Chef.
Heads immediately turned, and two kids started grinning from ear to ear.
“Butterflies. I’m still in shock. There’s nothing like seeing your family and...touching your family. You can never replace that,” said Valdespino after running through a tunnel made up of camp leaders.
Valdespino, now known as Papa Ricardo at camp, hasn’t seen his grandkids, in-person, for nearly seven years.
“My older son Ricardo is in the military so he had to follow his orders,” he told KGUN9.
His son Ricardo, Ricardo’s wife, and their two children Elias and Grace were living in Germany for the last seven years.
Four months ago, the family moved to Tucson, after Ricardo was transferred to the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
As fate would have it, a job opened up at the camp and Andy Hockenbrock, known as Oak Tree at camp, hired Papa Ricardo as their new chef.
“It was a no-brainer, and you know coming from a school district as Miami-Dade Schools, I knew he could manage our little kitchen,” said Hockenbrock.
“My grandson Eli has never seen me. One thing I noticed about Eli is that he walks just like his Dad, and I couldn’t believe Grace got so big. The last time I saw her she was a little girl,” Valdespino told KGUN9.
Papa Ricardo says this job is a gift.
“You get to work, and you get to see your family that you haven’t seen for so many years and I’m just taking it all in right now. I’m in a cloud,” he added.
He is looking forward to spending lots of time with his son, daughter in law, and beloved grandchildren.
“Those two. They’re everything to me and I think that the connection that we;re going to have now is just going to bring everything together for us,” Valdespino told KGUN9.
Papa Ricardo will be in Tucson for the Summer, until camp ends.
“I’m going to do my best for everyone here and...it’ll be a good summer,” he said.