While the full impact of the Camp Fire may not be known for months or even years, the destruction and devastation it caused is already the worst in California history.
With more than 85 dead and many residents still missing, the families in Paradise and the surrounding communities have experienced unspeakable tragedy.
That’s why Bob Wilson, longtime donor with the Escondido Charitable Foundation and The San Diego Foundation, wanted to bring some positivity to the individuals whose lives were shattered when the Camp Fire swept through their Northern California community of Paradise, particularly local youth.
“High school had a great impact on my life and I would say it was the first, last and only truly carefree time,” Bob, who attended Escondido High School in the 1940s, told reporters. “It’s hard to think of anything more difficult than losing your home and everything you own, especially when you’re enjoying your high school years.”
It’s hard to think of anything more difficult than losing your home and everything you own, especially when you’re enjoying your high school years.
This week, Bob traveled north from his Southern California home to give a generous gift to Paradise High School youth and staff.
On a rainy Tuesday night at a nearby school, he personally delivered checks worth $1.1 million including $1,000 each to all 980 students and 105 employees of Paradise High School.
As Bob explained, the checks are a way to allow these students to spend them how they see fit and maybe lift their spirits after experiencing such a tragedy.
Many said they would use the funds to buy new clothes or other items lost in the fire, and one student shared that she was going to use her $1,000 check to help pay part of her family’s rent.
“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,” shared Paradise High School Principal Loren Lighthall. “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.”
The decision to help was an easy one for Bob.
For years, the San Diego philanthropist has been supporting important initiatives in his hometown of Escondido and across California, including homelessness, education and youth development.
As Bob has shown, philanthropy can have a powerful impact on a community, especially in the aftermath of unexpected disaster.
The recovery and rebuilding process for the Paradise community will be long, but Bob’s generosity will help ease suffering, bring a sense of joy to the youth and their families, and inspire other philanthropists to give from the heart to those in need.