Since losing his wife to breast cancer earlier this year, Mario Lazo has had to juggle home duties, including paying his mortgage, and running his family business all while raising his two daughters.
But relief came from comedian Ellen DeGeneres, who announced she paid for the Buckhead man’s mortgage during her holiday special, “Ellen’s Greatest Night of Giveaways.”
“I was speechless when it happened,” Lazo told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a phone interview.
Lazo said his wife, Jennifer, was a big fan of the show: “When she was going through cancer, she used to put on “The Ellen Show” to smile.”
Jennifer Lazo was diagnosed with cancer in 2015. It went into remission and returned more aggressively in late 2017, Mario Lazo said. Jennifer died May 25.
“Oh, boy, she was a person full of life,” Mario Lazo said. “She always looked at the positive of a negative situation and always had the biggest smile on her face.”
The two met nearly 20 years ago and married in 2006.
In that time, the two started their home renovation company and often staged homes for realtors in Atlanta. Their work caught the eye of real estate agent and Grant Park resident Jamie Simpson, who hired Jennifer Lazo to work at the Simpson Real Estate Group, staging homes for him, Simpson’s wife Keeli said.
The new job also allowed Jennifer to reconnect with college friend Keeli Simpson. The two co-founded Join The Flock, a non-profit that supports families affected by cancer by gifting mortgage payments and offering emotional support.
Jennifer Lazo created the business last year, as she was battling cancer. Keeli Simpson and the Lazo family are keeping the business going now.
In its first year, the organization paid monthly mortgage payments for six families and donated clothes and house goods to seven other families, Keeli Simpson said. The organization is hoping to raise $75,000 to help families in need.
Keeli decided she wanted to do something nice for the Lazo family and wrote to “The Ellen Show” asking for help.
Simpson and Jennifer were “only reconnected for two years,” Simpson said, “but she made such an impact on my life and it shows the kind of person she was.”
Simpson received a response from The Ellen Show in September, but had no idea she and the Lazo family would be featured on Ellen’s holiday special.
“It was honestly a little bit of an out-of-body experience,” Simpson said.
Ellen surprised Simpson at her home recently with actress Melissa McCarthy, who then drove the two of them to the Lazo home to give gifts to the family. They were also surprised with a trip to Aspen.
During their appearance Wednesday on “Ellen’s Greatest Night of Giveaways,” singer Taylor Swift gifted the girls with tickets to her “Lover Fest West” music festival and backstage passes.
“I heard about everything you’ve been through, and I just want to send you my love,” Swift said in a video message.
The family also opened a giant box containing a paper with Mario Lazo’s name and the cost of his mortgage, $300,000.
The comedian tore up the paper and told him plainly: “That’s paid for.”
Watch part of the surprise here:
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