Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Christmas wishes of hundreds of needy local students will be fulfilled despite pandemic

WACO, TX – A program started to brighten Christmas for hundreds of Waco ISD students in need founded by a beloved soccer coach who died unexpectedly in January from an apparent heart attack, not only met its goal of fulfilling the Christmas wishes of 400 children, but also surpassed it.

The Make a Wish Come True program, started 12 years ago by late University High School soccer coach Mike Chapman, involves the school’s soccer team and Junior ROTC in an effort to fill the wishes of other students in the district.

Last year the effort granted the wishes of 400 students, who were chosen on the basis of letters they wrote in which many asked for such things as blankets for their siblings, shirts for their mothers and food for their families over the holiday break.

After Chapman passed away suddenly in January outside of the University High School field house just after a soccer game, his students, friends and family knew they would have to work tirelessly to carry on the coach’s cherished mission of helping those in need over the holidays.

“It was so important to not only continue Mike’s legacy but to make sure the kids of Waco ISD were provided for,” Mike’s brother, Kyle, who has now stepped in to take over the soccer program, said.

“That was his main concern.”

But reaching last year’s goal of raising $40,000 was going to be a real feat, especially considering the economic strains on so many right as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program also looked different.

Donors this year couldn’t shop personally for items students requested because of the virus, so instead organizers asked for gift cards with hopes of getting enough to give $100 gift cards to at least 400 students.

Gift card donations fell a little short of the goal, however, so organizers stepped up the push to raise more.

Monday, Bubba’s 33 restaurant off I-35 in Waco invited Principal, Dr. Ricky Eddison, coach Ricky Perez and JROTC First Sgt. Leonard Montelongo to climb up on the roof, where they vowed to stay until they raised $5,000.

The three got the donations needed in just a few hours.

“$5,000+ raised in record time! We know that Coach Chapman would be so proud!! Congratulations Trojans!” Bubba’s 33 posted on social media.

Overall, volunteers raised just more than $43,000, $3,000 more than last year.

Country music star and Waco native Wade Bowen was a big help.

He donated $7,500 from the Bowen Family Foundation.

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