ATWATER — Many wishes are made during the Christmas season, and at Buhach Colony High School, a goodly amount of them come true.
The school's 2,000 students turned out for an hourlong rally at midday Wednesday that saw 38 wishes fulfilled and many misty eyes at the hushed assembly.
Elizabeth Phonesavanh, Buhach Colony activities director, said this is the one event she won't give up for anything, as it's something near and dear to her. The students raised about $10,000 in donations this year.
"The kids work really hard to put this on," Phonesavanh said. "It's a different atmosphere. For me, this is the one event that brings the whole school together with the community. It shows students how much the community cares for them."
Phonesavanh said students started dropping off wishes in the wishing well at the student body office in late October. The 32 leadership students then tried to grant as many wishes as possible by raising money and seeking donors. Phonesavanh estimated that several hundred requests ultimately were submitted.
Breana Albright wanted a friend of hers who was undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia to receive motel lodging, complete with an ocean-view room, at Pismo Beach.
"I wish my friend Kristen could go to the beach because she was diagnosed with leukemia, and she just finished with her last treatment and I think she deserves it," Albright said.
Kristen Troxel said she wished for 10 pairs of gloves to give to homeless people. Along with the gloves came a gift card for her at a Merced department store.
Alexis Comer wished for a $50 gift card from a Merced bookstore for her little sister.
Wrestling coach Eric Osmer thanked student Gary Xiong for submitting a wish that his teammates would get new shoes to replace the torn-up loaners they were using. He also thanked the anonymous donor who made it all possible.
"You should see their faces as they try on and wear their new shoes," Osmer said. "It was awesome. Thank you again."
Phonesavanh said students normally are boisterous at school rallies but were quiet at the wish event Wednesday -- some were even crying.
Among other wishes granted were a complete makeover and photo shoot for a single mother; a Christmas tree for a needy family; San Francisco Giants baseball tickets for a family whose mother has been hospitalized for six months; a gas card for a student; dinner at a Merced restaurant for a family where the breadwinner had lost his job; a letterman jacket; prom tickets and a makeover; and behind-the-wheel training for two students who could not afford it.
Employees from an area bank adopted the family of a student whose mother had died, giving them a $750 gift card for clothing and other gifts.
Principal Stacy McAfee said it's amazing how the community responds to such needs, even in hard times. She said that students are respectful of these needs, and fulfilling them comes very much from the heart.
"Last year was amazing; we did not think we could do better ever again, but we did." Phonesavanh said.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.