Years ago, friends Nathan Mata and Frankie Chavez were traveling along I-15 towards Calipatria after Mata had been refereeing a basketball game in Holtville. Tragically, the young men were t-boned by a car that ran the stop sign on Blair Road and both were killed.
The very night of the accident, the Mata family decided they were going to do something positive to honor Nate’s memory and decided to create the “Nate” Mata Memorial Scholarship fund to help the athletes of Calipatria High School.
For 23 years, the family has hosted the barbecue for the community in honor of of their son. Every year, everyone who knows the Matas — be it friend or family — come together to put on the event. Even members of the Calipatria High School girl’s softball team volunteer to help out.
“Never would I have thought we would still be doing this,” said Jane Mata, the mother of Nate. “I have to pinch myself sometimes thinking, ‘Am I dreaming?'”
Every year hundreds come out for the dinner, not only to support the family and community, but to have a good time. The fundraiser draws participants from all over, not just Calipatria, with people even coming from the Los Angeles area.
“We come to support the kids, it’s good for the scholarship, ” said Mario Ortiz from Brawley.
“I love it, it’s so much fun,” said Chana Tabarez who has attended the fundraiser every year since she was small. “I love how they support the kids and everyone else.”
According to Mata, the family has been able to raise thousands of dollars for the high school and sports. While scholarships were originally earmarked for the basketball athletes, in recent years, the family has been expanded it to include all athletes, with the Mata family donating directly to the sports department at the school whenever there is a need.