Frankie Chavez Memorial BBQ is a Family Affair

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Frank Chavez Sr and Rusty Garcia shake before the table filled with softball trophies to be awarded at the end of the day.
Frank Chavez Sr and Rusty Garcia shake before the table filled with softball trophies to be awarded at the end of the day.

 

BRAWLEY  — It has been over two decades since Frankie Chavez and his buddy, Nate Mata, died one fateful night in a vehicle accident. But in his memory, the family has been knit together in an incredible manner, bettering the community, helping young people, and remembering Frankie.

On Saturday, the Chavez family came together in a fun-filled day once again at the 22nd Annual Frankie Chavez Memorial Bar-b-que held at Hinojosa Park in Brawley. The all-day affair began at dawn with an army of family heading to set up base-camp at Hinojosa, while another contingent arrived at Gonzales Park. An epic softball tournament composed of various friends and family at two local parks played out until the two best teams of the day faced each other.

Meanwhile at Hinojosa, another family member’s band played live music, as Frankie Chavez’ mother, Irene, and a  Zumba group danced the hours away. The smell of food drew the neighbors, and classic cars gathered at the opposite end of the park.

Family had been planning the day for months, including sisters traveling from Ojai and Virginia. The second generation is now old enough to work the serving line and help set up the horseshoe tournament. The raffle, composed of gifts bought by the extended family, totaled thousands of dollars.

Friends of the family, Rusty and Lupe Garcia, stepped in to help as they have from the beginning, but this year was bittersweet. The Garcia’s great friend, Brawley city treasurer, Miguel Miranda, always organized the softball tournament, but his sudden passing a few months ago left a big vacancy in many hearts as well as in the tournament.

“We are doing this for my compa,” Garcia said in regards to being in charge. “It is in my heart.”

Besides being a day many enjoy, with the t-shirt sales, the softball entry fees, and the bar-b-que sales, funds raised during the day have benefited decades of graduating seniors, many who now return to Brawley to work at the fundraiser. In the 21 years since Frankie’s death, the Chavezes have given $197,000 in senior scholarships, mainly to Brawley and Calipatria students.

The ongoing legacy of Frankie Chavez is a loving, giving family and generations of students getting a chance for higher education.

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