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Co-workers surprise disabled former firefighter with new van

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A disabled former firefighter in west Indianapolis got a surprise from his co-workers Friday.

Rod Lambert lost his ability to walk in 1995 after he responded to a call with the Wayne Township Fire Department. The truck flipped. One firefighter died and the accident paralyzed Lambert.

He now works in the hardware department at a west side Lowe’s. He always keeps a smile on his face, and his co-workers say he never complains.

“We see him every day drive to work in his rusted van that he kind of struggles to get in and out of,” manager Terri Schlessinger said.

That rusted van is 16 years old with 154,000 miles. Lambert says he can’t afford to keep up with repairs.

Employees at Lowe’s decided to throw a party in the parking lot Friday. They called it “Customer Appreciation Day.”

But they really threw the party for Lambert. His co-workers lined up to greet him.

First, he heard their cheers. He saw his buddies from the fire department, standing side-by-side with his Lowe’s team.

“Oh shoot, man,” Lambert said as he moved down the line. “What’s happening, guys?”

The warm welcome surprised Lambert enough. But then he spotted another surprise: a new wheel chair accessible van.

“Oh, wow,” he said.

A woman who asked to stay anonymous donated the van to Rod. She said her disabled husband used the van, but he recently passed away.

Rod knew months ago he’d be getting the van, but he didn’t expect it for another week.

“I just want to say, thank you all so much,” Lambert said.

His co-workers also gave Lambert some signed Jimmy Johnson gear just in time for the Brickyard 400.

“It’s truly been touching to see the whole store rally around him,” Schlessinger said.

“I give the credit to the Lord on this one,” Lambert said. “It all came through and, to me, it’s a blessing.”

The Wayne Township Fire Department also gave Lambert an honorary plaque Friday.

Lambert said he still visits the firehouse to see his brothers and sisters.