WACO, TX – School principals were moved to tears as they picked up hundreds of gift cards for Waco ISD students in need thanks to a record-breaking year for the Make A Wish Come True program started by late University High School head soccer coach Mike Chapman 12 years ago.
The program collected $44,000 this year, allowing the University soccer team and Junior ROTC to purchase $100 dollar gift cards for 440 students, some of which were passed out Wednesday to the principals of elementary schools that feed University to distribute before the start of Christmas break.
The rest of the cards go to students at Cesar Chavez Middle School and at the high school.
“OK, get the tissues ready,” said Alta Vista Elementary School Principal Rebecca Maynard as she searched for words to explain how important the program is to many of her students this year.
“I can’t tell you how much it means, but I’ll do the best I can. Many of our families are struggling a lot this year and their Christmas trees are bare. There is nothing underneath them right now but very soon thanks to University High school and all our community partners that will change.”
Kendrick Elementary School Principal Isabel Lozano shared the sentiment, saying the gesture means one thing to her.
“What it means for us is just love,” she said.
South Waco Elementary School Principal Twana Lee was happy Chapman’s friends and family decided to carry on the tradition this year despite Chapman’s untimely death in January from a heart attack following a soccer game.
Even though organizers couldn’t shop for specific gifts this year because of COVID-19, she says her students will put the $100 gift cards to good use.
“Our children, every year, they write the letters and they are very dear to the heart on what their family needs. Sometimes they care about what other people need and they really look forward to it,” Lee said.
Bells Hill Elementary School Principal Rebekah Mechell was thrilled, too.
“For Bells Hill Elementary it means the world to some of our students so I’m really excited we have the opportunity for our kids.”
Mike’s brother, Kyle, who stepped in to fill the role of head soccer coach after his brother’s death, was on hand for the distribution.
So was University High School Principal Ricky Edison and JROTC First Sgt. Leonard Montelongo, both of whom wanted to reiterate their thanks to the community.
“From the Chapman family, we’d like to say thank you very much for helping us continue Mike’s tradition and legacy,” Kyle said.