CHICO, Calif. (AP) — A businessman pained over the destruction to the town of Paradise caused by a deadly Northern California wildfire gave out $1,000 checks to students and staff members from the local high school.
Real estate developer and restaurant owner Bob Wilson said he would hand out checks totaling $1.1 million to Paradise High School’s 980 students and 105 teachers and staff members in the nearby small city of Chico who have been impacted by the Camp Fire.
Wilson is from the San Diego area and said he thought of the donation after reading a Los Angeles Times story about the high school still standing with students scattered and separated from each other. One student told the newspaper he missed spending time with his friends at local hangouts and another said she cries constantly.
The 90-year-old said Tuesday evening he just wanted the students to know that someone cares about them. “You know if they take away from this that some guy 600 miles away thought enough to come up here and give them a check, you know, that’s all the compensation I want out of it,” said Wilson.
In an earlier interview, Wilson said that his memories of high school in the 1940s inspired him to act. He said reading about the hardships faced by the Paradise high school students broke his heart.
“High school had a great impact on my life,” he said. “In fact, I would say it was the first, last and only truly carefree time.”
School Principal Loren Lighthall said he thinks about 900 students lost their homes because of the fire that killed 88 people.
“Bob’s donation puts money in each kid’s pocket right now for food, gas, clothes, for essential things,” he said.
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