On Mother's Day, Tayler Soto took a drive with his family to get out of the house because they have been quarantined since the Coronavirus pandemic started last March. When they returned to their home in Tucson, Arizona, they couldn't believe what had happened.
A fire had destroyed their home.
Everything they owned was gone.
"It's kind of surreal, I guess," said Soto. "It leaves you in a state of shock because you have something, and then you have nothing in 10 minutes. It took about 10 minutes to take all of your stuff. It's been tough."
Even though the Soto family had lost all of their belongings, it made them closer.
"It makes me more appreciative," said Soto.
Tayler is a Chargers fan. His father grew up in East Los Angeles loving the Chargers, so when he moved his family to Arizona, they stayed Chargers fans. Tayler had all kinds of hats and jerseys of the team.
He remembers watching the Chargers when number 87 belonged to then wide receiver Keenan McCardell. He is very active on Chargers Twitter posting stuff during the offseason, during the season, and heavily during games.
He is part of what is known as "The Bolt Fam.”
After the flames were gone and it was safe to go in, Tayler decided to look around and see what was salvaged. He found a white Chargers hat that his father had gifted him, but it was ruined. There was only one item that made it, which was a Derwin James number 33 jersey.
He posted the video on Twitter and announced he would be taking some time off to figure out what was next.
Fellow Chargers fan Jennifer Mills saw what happened and didn't want to pry but wanted to help a fellow fan. She is known as "Bolts Mom" to a lot of fans because she does giveaways and is very active in the Chargers fan community. Tayler actually won one of her giveaways a couple of years ago, so she knew of him.
She received messages that contained the tweets about Tayler's house burning down, so Mills did what she knew best, help. Setting up a GoFundMe account and the snowball effect happened.
"I wanted to kind of surprise him, and it just kind of took off from there," said Mills.
She was more of a "Bolt Guardian Angel" for the Soto family.
"She made sure our daughter was okay and had everything we need," said Soto.
Mills didn't stop there. She started reaching out to the Chargers organization to see if they could do something for the Soto family. Well, the Chargers reached out to the family via Twitter dm's. He checked the message like 70 times to make sure it was the real account.
"I glanced at it, and then I cried, honestly," recalled Soto. "Well, you know, I never would have thought my childhood football team wanted to know that my family was okay."
He received a call from the Chargers President of Football Operations John Spanos.
"He was absolutely humble and didn't care about anything except my family," said Soto.
Spanos offered the Soto Family a trip of a lifetime. The Spanos family would fly them out to Los Angeles to check out SoFi Stadium and have a few days to relax in sunny California. Tayler, along with his wife, Shaylia, were very excited but were hesitant. Their daughter, Chandler, has health issues, which doctors a year ago had advised the family to stay at home because there was a lot of worry about COVID.
Spanos let him and his wife know anyone around them would be wearing masks and vaccinated, which helped them with their decision. Tayler said they had never been to an NFL stadium in his life.
Last week, the Soto family got a full tour of SoFi Stadium with a couple of surprises. They walked into the team store and hiding behind a rack of clothes was safety Derwin James. Tayler said he was great with their daughter and very nice to them. James told the family that he wanted to give them a shopping spree and pick whatever they wanted from the team store.
"We had conversations," said Soto. "My wife and his wife (James’ significant other) talked, and they're really good people and really cool people. They don't care about anything else, except that we were okay, and we were super nervous. He bought us some gear, and we didn't know like, what we could grab because we've never we've never done this, but it was nuts, man. We had fun."
The Soto family also got to go on the field at SoFi Stadium and waiting for them was Chargers tight end Antonio Gates. If the Chargers had a Mount Rushmore, his iconic smile would be on there.
Tayler was sharing the experience of checking out SoFi with Gates, who hadn't seen the stadium either. The next moment was life-changing.
"His first pass he caught ever at SoFi stadium was from me, so I thought that was pretty cool," said Soto. "He's awesome."
Even Chandler threw a couple of passes to Gates.
The Chargers uploaded all of this on social media.
"I was practically in tears," said Mills about seeing the social media posts. "It was such an amazing thing to watch."
Mills said that receiver Mike Williams, defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko, and former linebacker Shawne Merriman all retweeted the GoFundMe. Chargers fans have donated a little over $11,000, but that was also thanks to a certain former player.
Last March, Soto was outside his house calling into one of his favorite sports shows, The Pat McAfee Show. He was on hold for an hour and 40 minutes, so he believed he wouldn't get on. McAfee answered, and Soto froze.
"So, I'm like, 'oh, wow,' I'm really on the show, and he kind of says, 'Hello?" recalled Soto. "I'm like, 'okay, I don't really know what to say.' So, I kind of just started saying stuff, and I said, one wrong thing, and he caught it and roasted me."
When on the show, Tayler shouted out his Twitter account then told McAfee that "The Chargers must make a splash" in free agency. After he said that, McAfee got a smile on his face and started asking Tayler questions with his boys in the background asking, "WHAT?!" made famous by WWE wrestling great Stone Cold Steve Austin.
McAfee shared that he felt the Chargers had made a big splash by hiring a new coaching staff and drafting quarterback Justin Herbert last season.
The current show host and WWE Smackdown announcer followed Tayler on Twitter, but it didn't end there. McAfee donated $5,000 to Tayler's GoFundMe page.
"I never would have thought that that that would have happened," admitted Soto.
He went from having fun getting roasted on "The Pat McAfee Show" to getting a follow back to receiving a heartwarming gift from the man himself.
"We'll never have words to express how grateful we are for everybody, especially Pat," said Soto.
Tayler explained numerous times that he couldn't believe how much help he received from Chargers fans, the Chargers organization, McAfee, but Jennifer Mills also, who turned out to be a guardian angel for a family who felt like the world around them had come crashing down.
"I want to thank the fans and a big shout out to Jen Mills,” said Soto. “I mean that she started the GoFundMe and made all this possible. She made sure our daughter was okay and had everything we need. She stopped by personally, and she saw the house, and we walked through it and everything, and she's gone out of her way to do a lot of stuff for us.”