CHICO, Calif. (AP) – A businessman grieved over the destruction of Paradise City by a deadly fire in northern California on Tuesday gave $ 1,000 each to local high school students and staff.
Real estate developer and restaurant owner Bob Wilson arrived in the nearby town of Chico with two suitcases filled with checks totaling $ 1.1 million for the 980 students and 105 teachers and staff at Paradise High School.
Wilson, a native of the San Diego area, said he had thought of this donation after reading a Los Angeles Times article about high school still standing with students scattered and separated from each other. One student told the newspaper that she had missed spending time with her friends in local meeting places and another said she was crying constantly.
Wilson is 90 years old and said in an interview that his memories of high school in the 1940s prompted him to take action.
His intention was to make the children smile and "give some freedom to do what they wanted to do and perhaps make them forget what happened for a short time."
He said that reading about the hardships faced by Paradise high schoolers had broken his heart and that he wanted them to know that someone cared about them.
"High school has had a big impact on my life," he said. "In fact, I would say it was the first, the last and the only really carefree moment."
School principal Loren Lighthall said she thought about 900 students had lost their homes because of the fire that killed 88 people.
"Bob's gift is currently putting money in every kid's pocket to buy food, gas, clothes and essentials," he said.