Wishes granted: Local students surprised with early Christmas gifts

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) Thursday morning every single wish by every last student at Waco’s Bell’s Hill Elementary School chosen for the Make a Wish Come True program organized by the University High School soccer team and Junior ROTC was granted, thanks to the Bowen Family Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 2014 by Waco native singer and songwriter Wade Bowen.

Head University soccer coach Mike Chapman started the Make A Wish Come True program 11 years ago asking the community to help him grant the wishes of a handful of students. (Photos by Julie Hays)

Bowen is on the road touring this week with a new Christmas album, but family members, many of whom serve on the foundation’s board, including his mother Glenda, father Jim, sister Jill, cousin and aunt and uncle all came to the school to help pass out the hundreds of gifts they shopped for, including bikes, dolls and games, enough to fill the back of a box truck.

Head University soccer coach Mike Chapman started the Make A Wish Come True program 11 years ago asking the community to help him grant the wishes of a handful of students.

The program and the support has grown over the years and Chapman and his players are now able to grant the wishes of nearly 300 students at University High School, Cesar Chavez Middle School, Alta Vista Elementary School, Bell’s Hill Elementary School, South Waco Elementary School and Kendrick Elementary School.

Chapman says the goal is always to serve as many students as possible and the load was much lighter this year when Jill Goss, Bowen’s sister and foundation board member, called him with an offer he couldn’t believe.

“This is one phone call I am so glad I took is when Jill called me up and said ‘we want to be involved.’ And I was like ‘OK, how many essays, how may kids do you want to sponsor?’ I was thinking 2, 3, or 4 and it was ‘no, the whole school.’”

The foundation received the essays of all the children chosen at Bell’s Hill and did lots of shopping for “fun” gifts, but were moved to tears by the selflessness of many students who asked for gifts for their siblings and more practical items like blankets, pillows and food for their families.

“We wanted to do something in a big way so we took on the whole school,” Goss said.

“I'm so excited and for everyone in the community who comes out and supports the Bowen Family Foundation to see where their money is going. It’s to things like this.”

Jaretzy Devora is a fifth grader who had her wish granted Wednesday.

She said the gesture makes her want to pass it on.

“I feel like since people are giving to us we should give to other people,” the young girl said.

The Bowen MusicFest concert in June drew tens of thousands of fans to Touchdown Alley outside of McLane Stadium and helped the Bowen Family Foundation reach its $4 million mark.

“I’m just so excited to be a part of this,” Goss said.

“We want people to see where their money is going and what better place than to these deserving kids.”