Holland man receives birthday surprise that went viral: ‘Still on cloud nine’

Leo Rivas had no special plans for his 64th birthday — until his coworkers showed up to his dishwashing station with a surprise that left him in tears.

HOLLAND, MI – Leo Rivas didn’t have big plans for his 64th birthday. In fact, he’d spend it working at Big E’s Sports Grill on 8th Street.

“For the most part, this is where I stay,” he said, gesturing towards a sink filled with dishes. 

“I’m the dishwasher,” he said. “I’m retired, so this is just part time.”

A man who volunteered to serve his country twice has somewhat of a reputation around the restaurant, says supervisor Noemi “MiiMii” Feliciano.

“He works very hard, everyday he spoils us with sweets, he comes in with a bag of candy faithfully everyday,” says MiiMii. 

“They like the little Jolly Rancher swirls I bring in,” said Leo, smiling. “They like just about everything.”

The candy man would get a sweet surprise of his own, though.

MiiMii, the restaurant’s former cook, got to work.

“When it’s someone’s birthday, I try to bake them a cake. Especially if they have to work, I try to make it special,” she said. 

“I knew he liked strawberry, and I knew he hadn’t gotten a cake in a while after talking to him,” said MiiMii. “We’re a family here, we all treat each other literally like family.”

“I believe I’m probably the oldest one who works here,” said Leo. “Guess it’s probably the grandpa effect or somethin’.’”

MiiMii brought in a strawberry cake to the kitchen while Leo worked. As she approached, he turned around, surprised. That’s when the tears started.

 It was a birthday treat that meant a lot more to Leo than a clean sink.

“All the servers and everybody were behind her, and it just, it brought me to tears,” said Leo. “I’m still on cloud nine, trying to accept it.”

MiiMii posted the video to Tik Tok, and it quickly garnered millions of views. In the next few days, they were on the Today Show and media outlets all over the world.

“I did show Leo and he got emotional all over again,” said MiiMii, “There is good news out there.”

It was a small gesture for a man with a whole lot of love.

“It’d been a long time,” Leo said, with tears in his eyes. “It was a big, big joy and just showed how much they appreciate me.”

That joy even surprised even MiiMii, who has no plans of slowing down.

“Those cakes are still gonna keep coming, definitely,” she smiled.

Leo started his 64th year in the best way he knows how — surrounded by chosen family.

“As long as I can make them smile and be happy, then that’s what I’ll keep doing,” he said. 

“It’s been one of the best birthdays in a long time.”

You can watch the full Tik Tok here