After 24 Years, Chavez Family Continues Scholarship Legacy In Son’s Name
By Chris Furguson
On December 4, 1992, just months after his graduation from Brawley Union High School, Frankie Chavez Jr. was traveling from Holtville with his friend, Nathan Mata, when their vehicle was t-boned by another driver. The accident, which killed both youths, has spurred on a legacy beyond their short lives as both families host annual fundraisers for scholarships in their names.
On February 25, 2017, the 24th annual Frankie Chavez Memorial Scholarship Fund will host their annual Barbecue and 8-team Men’s Softball tournament at Hinojosa Park in Brawley. The event will also include live music, a car show, a horseshoe tournament and other activities.
A similar fundraiser will be set for April 1 in Calipatria, CA for the Mata family.
“We don’t remember who, but someone suggested the idea of holding a softball tournament,” said Frank Chavez Sr., who was joined by his wife Irene. “In the early days, the tournament was actually co-ed, but we changed it about ten years ago.”
Frank and Irene are helped by the rest of the family during the barbecue. Daugher Marlene runs the drive-through area with her three children while son Richard helps in other ways.
The Chavez’s are also aided by members of the community, who spend their time helping in a variety of ways, from donations of sound equipment and time to help preparing and cooking ingredients for the barbecue itself.
“We all help each other,” said Frank Sr, mentioning his friend Daniel “Pilo” Camargo. Camargo, according to the Chavez’s, helps cook the meal the night before the fundraiser and donates his band’s time to the event, along with providing sound equipment and many other things.
Another noted helper was the recently deceased Miguel Miranda, who coordinated the softball tournament and arranged for umpires and equipment. Rusty Garcia, who was Miranda’s best friend, has taken over for the fallen volunteer.
Over the past 23 years, the foundation has given over $200,000 to high school graduates from Brawley and Calipatria. The barbecue will serve around 800-900 people, at $10 per plate, while the softball tournament has a $200 entry fee per team.
“We usually give the money directly to the kids, as long as they have proof of enrollment,” added Frank. The foundation often announces the winners of the scholarships at the annual BUHS Senior Awards Night just before the school’s Graduation.
A few years ago, the Hidalgo Society rewarded both families with their “Si Se Puede,” or “Yes We Can,” award at one of their Cesar Chavez Community Celebration events.
Frankie Chavez Jr. would have turned 42 on Monday, February 13.
Barbecue and dinner fundraisers are nothing new to Brawley or the Imperial Valley, with one taking place somewhere in the county every weekend.