EDENTON, N.C. (WTVD) -- A North Carolina elementary school custodian received the surprise of a lifetime after he lost out on winning a state award.
Raymond Brown is the head custodian at White Oak Elementary School in Edenton. Anyone who knows Brown says he does much more than clean up the school.
"He's kind of our rock, our foundation of what we do here," Principal Michelle Newsome said to WTKR. "What makes Mr. Brown the most special is that he works really hard to build relationships with the students, sincere relationships that many of our students would not otherwise have,"
One of those students is Adrian Wood's youngest son, Amos. Amos has autism and does not talk.
"My heart went out for him; he was in pampers when I first met him and I kept showing my love towards him. He got that, been attached to me and I got attached to him, so I gave him the name Famous Amos," Brown said.
Famous Amos stuck.
Now all the children at the school call him that too.
"So Amos went from being this little fella that didn't really talk to anybody to being quite a popular figure at school, and I give Mr. Brown a lot of credit for that," Wood said. "Here's this man that everybody adores and he showers some attention on Amos, then everybody was like, 'Well Amos is pretty cool,' and he might not be the kind of friend that plays...or talks but children really gravitated towards him; which, for me, the mother of a child, with a disability, is all I want in life for him."
So when Brown failed to win the North Carolina School Hero Award, Wood used her blog to rally the community to donate for a different award.
The effort was wildly successful. All that was left was to spring the good news on Brown.
For that, his daughter stepped up to help. She convinced him there was going to be a party to celebrate his 38th wedding anniversary.
She told her father to meet down at the waterfront Saturday just before lunch, so she could take pictures of him.
When he arrived, a huge crowd from the Edenton community was there cheering him on.
If that wasn't shock enough, Wood presented Brown with what she called the Famous Amos Award and a $35,000 check.
Brown couldn't believe it. He said he's going to use the money to buy the staff food and treat all the kids at the school to an ice cream party. Then he'll use the rest to get some work done on his home and maybe buy a new truck.
But even with the money, Brown is sure to resume his leading role at the elementary school where he will continue to mentor children and teach them kindness and compassion.
"Some of the kids said, 'Mr. Brown, I wish you (were) my father. (I) wish you were my grandfather,' and that made me want to love them even more," Brown said.