CALEXICO — Eight-year-old Dayanna Villafan simply smiled and said, “I’m very happy and excited for the tennis shoes and the jacket.” She said the jacket was in her favorite color, purple.
Villafan was one of the 100 children who received gifts from Molina Healthcare at Aurora High School in Calexico December 3.
Alexandra Bravo, community engagement manager with Molina Healthcare, said the gift distribution to needy children resulted from a collaboration between Molina Healthcare and the Calexico Unified School District (CUSD).
Bravo said, “We have identified that there were many children in need of winter clothes and shoes.”
According to Hortencia Armendariz, coordinator of Family Resource Center and Student Services for CUSD, students were identified from 12 schools throughout the school district in Calexico. These included seven elementary, two secondary and two high schools and Aurora High School.
Each boy and girl received a winter jacket and a pair of gift-wrapped shoes. These presents were stuffed inside a bright-colored sack with a festive Christmas holiday theme. Furthermore, each student received a backpack containing school supplies such as paper, pencils, erasers, markers and highlighters.
Dr. Cleo, Molina’s mascot, welcomed and entertained the children as they opened their gifts in front of their parents and guardians. Boys and girls expressed their excitement, which in turn brought smiles to their parents and guardians who took out their cell phones to take photos of the occasion.
Fieldworker Bertha Lopez, a mother who recently had pacemaker surgery and is now unable to work in the fields, brought her three children. She said she was grateful. “I’m really happy. This came at a perfect time. Funds are very low.”
Her 15-year-old teenager, Melanie Lopez, was likewise thankful. “I feel good because my mom does everything she can for us. We didn’t have any shoes and we really appreciate it.”
Josefina Aguilar was one of the mothers who brought her children to Molina’s gift distribution. “I’m very happy and excited because I thought it was only the shoes, but we got the jackets.”
In addition to the gifts, children were given snack treats and water bottles.
“It is just our way of giving back to the community,” said Bravo, Molina’s community engagement manager. “This is not the first year that we’re partnering with Calexico Unified School District. They are a great partner of ours.”