A businessman pained over the destruction to the town of Paradise caused by a deadly Northern California wildfire on Tuesday gave $1,000 each to students and staff members from the local high school.
Real estate developer and restaurant owner Bob Wilson arrived in the nearby city of Chico with two suitcases stuffed with checks totaling $1.1 million for Paradise High School’s 980 students and 105 teachers and staff members.
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.
Wilson is 90 and said in an interview that his memories of high school in the 1940s inspired him to act.
His intention was to make the kids smile and “give a little freedom to do whatever they wanted to do and maybe take their minds off what happened for a short period.”
He said reading about the hardships faced by the Paradise high school students broke his heart and he wanted them to know that someone cares about them.
“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.