Man Donates $1.1 Million To Members Of California School Hit By Wildfires

A businessman donated $1,000 to each student and staff member at a California school affected by the wildfires.

California Gov. Brown, Interior Secretary Zinke, And FEMA Chief Long Tour Town Of Paradise Devastated By Recent Wildfire
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

A businessman donated $1,000 to each student and staff member at a California school affected by the wildfires.

Members of Paradise High School in California received a welcome gift from a businessman after wildfires devastated the area, according to the Associated Press. Bob Wilson, 90, reached deep into his pockets to donate a generous amount of money to students, teachers, and staff at Paradise High School. He gave each person affiliated with the school $1,000.

Wilson — who is a restaurant owner and real estate developer — is from San Diego, but felt the need to help students from Paradise High School. He arrived in Paradise with two suitcases full of checks, totaling $1.1 million. Hearing heartbreaking stories of students scattered all over — and families still looking for housing — Wilson was urged to act. He told the Associated Press that high school was a carefree time for him.

“For me, high school… was an idyllic time of my life, you might say. And I thought about these kids, and I thought about my experience. And I said, you know, if I could just put a smile on their face,” Wilson told CBS News correspondent Jamie Yuccas. “And so I decided on the spot I would do this.”

Wilson spent hours writing 1,085 checks that he then delivered personally. Appropriately so, he handed out the checks on Giving Tuesday.

“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,” Wilson told the Washington Post.

Paradise High School students marching with sign
  Paradise High School Facebook

So Wilson decided to write each student a check so that they could do whatever they wanted with it. Along with each check was a note.

“My age would probably place you not as a grandchild, but a great-grandchild if you were part of my family. 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.”

Paradise High School principal Loren Lighthall was thankful for the generous windfall. Lighthall estimated that 900 students became homeless after the fires, according to the Associated Press. He thinks most of the students will use the money to help their families buy food or gas, according to CBS News. Lighthall also told the Washington Post that Wilson’s charitable act was “awesome.”

Wilson grew up on a small farm, and graduated high school in 1947. He enjoyed sports – he played football at Escondido High School – dances, and just hanging out. He wanted to help put some normalcy back into the lives of the students since “that’s what high school is all about.”