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Restoring a rust bucket: Locals fix up a 1968 El Camino for a cancer survivor

While Saugus’ Jonny Borondy fought cancer, close ones planned big surprise

Posted: July 14, 2009 8:27 p.m.
Updated: July 15, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Borondy reacts to his first glimpse of his El Camino. Valencia Coachworks Manager Craig Waring helped organize the surprise restoration effort while Borondy was undergoing 12 weeks of chemotherapy.

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All 17-year-old Jonny Borondy could see as he turned the corner to the parking lot of Valencia Coachworks was a crowd of 80 people standing with smiles on their faces.

Jonny recognized some of the people as his friends from Saugus High School, where he will start his senior year in the fall.

“Jonneeee!”

“Yo Jonneee B.!” his friends yelled.

His mom and dad were there on the Sunday afternoon. As was his close friend, 18-year-old Jasmine Roozbanian, who he’s known since his freshman days.

For the others, business owners and local car specialists, Jonny would soon meet them for the first time, and realize why they came.

As the crowd parted, they revealed the surprise: Jonny’s fully restored 1968 Chevrolet El Camino.

“That’s my car?!” Jonny yelled in disbelief, as music blared and the smell of a smoking barbecue filled the hot air.

What Jonny didn’t know was that for the past 12 weeks, as he underwent chemotherapy in his battle against cancer, Jasmine, her parents, Craig Waring and Maryam Nikroo, and about 40 business owners had invested roughly $30,000 to turn Jonny’s broken down car, known to his friends as the “rust bucket,” into a fresh set of hot wheels.

“It’s way too much,” Jonny said as he greeted friends and met the people who restored his car.

Waring and Nikroo said they wanted to give Jonny an item of dependency in his life.

“He’s one of those boys who works hard, studies hard,” Nikroo said.

Nikroo remembers when Jonny’s parents divorced and they ran into financial problems.

Still, Jonny persevered, getting a job as a lifeguard for the city during the summer and, when work ended, finding a job at In-N-Out Burger.

Jonny’s dad lent the El Camino to his son, but it was in bad shape and even dangerous to drive.

In one instance, Nikroo remembers when the car broke down in front of their Saugus home.

Eager to have a ride, Waring helped Jonny fix the car, installing a used engine that allowed him to drive to school and work.

Then came Jonny’s diagnosis of cancer in February.

“I was just devastated,” Nikroo said. “Life at so young has been nothing but a struggle.”

Following surgery, Jonny underwent 12 weeks of chemotherapy. He spent time homeschooling and away from band and swim practice, his mother Connie Borondy said.

Nikroo remembers when Waring awoke one morning, inspired to lend a hand to Jonny.

“He deserves this in our eyes,” Jasmine said.

The couple soon began making phone calls. Waring talked to Tom Hodge, owner of Valencia Coachworks, who joined the efforts to restore a car for a teenager he had never met.

“One thing just turned into another,” Hodge said.

Donations and support came in from local auto companies.

About 10 mechanics donated their weekends and evenings to restore the “rust bucket.”

The whole time, Waring told Jonny that his car was undergoing slight repairs.

On Sunday, Waring convinced Jonny to take a day off from work to help fix the car.

Little did he know that a restored classic car was ready, with everything from the stereo system to the seat belts restored.

“Just to see everything being done and to see the look on his face, it was out of control,” Hodge said, who met Jonny for the first time Sunday.

“It was amazing.”

The surprise comes at a tough time in Jonny’s life. But he credits his family and friends for getting through his chemotherapy.

“All the little things really help you get through this difficult time,” Connie Borondy said.

Jonny’s first trip with the new car will be to Zuma Beach with his friends, who have been planning a trip to the beach in the El Camino for more than a year.

“No one’s going to call it a rust bucket anymore, right?” Jonny told the crowd.

 

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