By Marlena Hartz
Christmas wishes can come true — something roughly 300 Clovis students have learned.
Clovis residents donated nearly $2,500 Tuesday to James Bickley Elementary School in an outpouring that raised 12 times the amount of money students lost when thousands of coins they had collected for new playground equipment were stolen in early December.
“I just wanted to help the kids out,” said one donator, Larry Porter. “I felt like the kids needed it. I didn’t think it was right for someone to steal like that,” he said.
“Clovis is full of good people. It really is,” Porter said of the donations.
Despite icy conditions, 21 business owners and individuals, including Porter, trekked to James Bickley to deliver jars of coins, popcorn and monetary donations, which ranged from $20 to $250, according to records kept by James Bickley personnel.
“It’s restored our hope,” said Cynthia Flores, acting principal at James Bickley. “I told the students (Tuesday), ‘Yes, there is a Santa.’”
James Bickley secretaries were moved to tears by the donations, according to Porter.
Another Clovis resident, Ted Lopez, lugged a 5-gallon water jug full of coins to the school, according to school records.
“I had been saving those coins for five years, and I didn’t know why,” Lopez said.
The instant he received news of the stolen jars he knew his collection had a purpose, Lopez said.
“You can’t let kids down. If you let them down, they will be down for their entire lives. Lots of times, bad things happen and God turns around and makes it a blessing,” the 65-year-old Clovis grandfather said.
On Dec. 11, James Bickley personnel reported to Clovis police that $200 raised by students at the school had been stolen over the weekend, according to a police report. The coins — which many children earned by doing household chores — were stored in seven jars at the school.
Two of the jars were found smashed in the school playground, according to a police report.
A Clovis couple brought in seven jars of money Tuesday to replace those that were stolen, school records show.
The student-driven fund-raiser, called “Pennies for Playground,” began about two months ago, according to Stephanie Rogers, the mother of three James Bickley students and the James Bickley Parent Advisory Committee Secretary.
The committee launched the fund-raiser in hopes of raising enough money to purchase new playground equipment, such as lower basketball hoops for the younger children and a tether ball, Rogers said.
“I am just so, so happy that the community was generous and willing to help these kids. It gives them hope. Sometimes when something bad happens, good will come out of it,” Rogers said Tuesday from her home.
Her three children — in first, second and fourth grade — shouted, “thank you,” in unison, their spirits much higher than they were Monday.