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- California businessman Bob Wilson donated $1,000 to each student, teacher, administrator, janitor, and bus driver from Paradise High School located in Butte County.
- The real estate developer and co-owner of the Fish Market restaurant chain, has no ties to Paradise – the town all but destroyed by the Camp Fire.
- On Giving Tuesday, he traveled with two suitcases filled with checks totaling $1.1 million to nearby Chico to hand them out.
- “Good intentions are just good intentions unless you act on them,” Wilson told The Washington Post.
Southern California businessman Bob Wilson made the most of Giving Tuesday (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving that emphasizes giving back to charity).
The real estate developer and co-owner of the restaurant chain Fish Market traveled delivered $1,000 checks to all 980 students, and 105 teachers, administrators, bus drivers, and janitors from Paradise High School.
Paradise is the town that was all but destroyed by the Camp Fire in Butte County – the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history. Moved by a story in the Los Angeles Times about how many members of the Paradise High School football team are now homeless, Wilson decided to help, The Washington Post reported.
“I felt terrible for them,” Wilson told The Post. “I couldn’t stop thinking, ‘How can I help?'”
His own high school experience at Escondido High School in San Diego County also weighed on his decision.
“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.”
So he packed two suitcases of checks – totaling $1.1 million – and headed north. On Tuesday, at a pizza reunion at Chico High School, Wilson handed out the checks with the goal of giving students “a little freedom to do whatever they wanted to do and maybe take their minds off what happened for a short period,” he told the Associated Press.
Wilson, who splits his time between San Diego and Los Angeles, also wrote a note accompanying the check which said in part, “Please know that you are not alone, as someone as far away as San Diego is rooting for you and has the firm belief that tomorrow will be better than today.”
Students have been out of school since November 8, though students from Paradise Intermediate and Paradise High School they will soon resume their studies at the Chico Mall.
Though the fire was finally contained over the weekend, it left roughly 5,000 students homeless, destroyed around 11,000 homes, and left 88 dead, according to NPR. Many students from Paradise High School are scattered across the area, and Tuesday’s gathering gave them a chance to come together, the Paradise Post pointed out.
“It’s been good to see everybody,” a student, Kate Minderhoud, told the Paradise Post. “Everyone is just so excited to see everyone.”
And the students and teachers are grateful for Wilson’s generosity.
“What he’s done is awesome. This puts money into people’s hands right now, and it pumps more than a million dollars into the economy,” Principal Loren Lighthall told The Post. “Over 90 percent of the homes in Paradise burned down, so our kids are super excited to get these checks. Really, it’s all they’re talking about.”
Wilson also made it clear that the donation was half from his wife Marion Wilson, who is 90 and suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.
“She no longer knows me, and she doesn’t know the dog, but I’m not going to say, ‘Woe is me.’ I can’t do one thing about it,” he told The Post. “But I can do something to help the kids in Paradise.”
Wilson has himself been reported as an octogenarian by The Post and a nonagenarian by the Associated Press.