Program started by beloved University High soccer coach Mike Chapman grants hundreds of Christmas wishes this year

Published: Dec. 14, 2022 at 8:06 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - More than 300 Christmas wishes were granted to students in Waco Independent School District this week as The Make-A-Wish Come True Program started by a beloved local soccer coach who unexpectedly passed away in 2020 marked its 14th year.

Mike Chapman, the head soccer coach at University High School who died of a heart attack following a game in January of 2020, started the Make-A-Wish-Come True program with a goal of granting wishes to Waco ISD students who may not otherwise have gifts under the tree on Christmas morning.

The first year, the program granted just a handful of wishes, and this year, with the help of the community, more than 300 kids got a great surprise.

Dylan Chapman who is the head baseball coach at University High School, and the nephew of Mike, helped lead the charge.

He said it’s a way to make a difference while also honoring the legacy of his uncle who always thought of others.

“This was a program my uncle Mike started 14 years ago and so it started by just trying to do one kid at school and now it’s grown to where we are able to do over 50 kids at every school,” Dylan said.

The program serves all schools which feed into University High School, including Bell’s Hill Elementary, Kendrick Elementary, Alta Vista Elementary and South Waco Elementary.  Wishes are also granted at Cesar Chavez Middle School and University High School.

Every wish granted to Bell’s Hill and South Waco was fulfilled by the Bowen Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by Waco native singer and songwriter Wade Bowen.

Wade’s family runs the foundation. They were on hand to deliver the gifts to the students Wednesday. Jim Bowen said the program is what the foundation is all about.

“Of course, of course this is it,” Jim Bowen said.  “It’s local children, that’s our goal and it’s really fun to watch their faces as they come up here to get their gifts and it’s fun.  It’s fun for us and we hope it’s fun for the kids.”

When Mike passed away, his younger brother Kyle stepped in to fill his role as University’s head coach so that he could make sure the soccer program continued the volunteerism that was so important to his big brother.

“Of course, I want to make him proud,” Kyle said. “He’s my big brother.”

And nothing made Mike prouder, his family says, than the Make-A-Wish Come True project so they knew they had to keep it going.

“The Make-A-Wish-Come-True project is at the heart of the community service that the soccer team and the JROTC perform at University High School,” Kyle said.

“It’s very important to the Chapmans, Montelongo and University family that we keep this tradition so we can continue to honor Mike’s legacy.”

It’s a feeling echoed by 1st Sgt. Leonard Montelongo with the JROTC at University High School.

“It’s important to keep the Make-A-Wish program going for both of our programs,” Montelongo said.

The students were chosen for the gifts based on essays they wrote about their wish.  Many kids asked for something to give to their family members, including moms and dads who were in attendance.