CALIPATRIA- The 24th annual Nate Mata Memorial Scholarship Barbecue attracted people throughout the valley to Calipatria Saturday to come and support funding local high school seniors’ college education.
Tens of thousands of dollars have been raised by the family over the years for scholarships in honoring their son, Nathan Mata in Calipatria according to his mother, Jane Mata.
The scholarship was originally just for basketball players since Nate was one himself and also coached the sport, but over the years it has been expanded to include all athletes, cheerleaders, and band members who apply.
“We want to help as many students as we can,” said Mata, “Even though we had a lost, something good came out of it.”
Over the years the family has been able to raise tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships for Calipatria seniors. Mata stated they could possibly give more to other schools in the future.
Most of the people, like Becky Gomez and Rick La Pena, come every year. “The Mata’s are good people, a good family and we want to support them,” said Gomez.
“It’s a nice because it’a a calming, relaxing atmosphere,” said Romelia Valadez.
Mata stated that she plans to keep the fundraiser going for as long as she lives. She says when she sees her son’s friends, she wonders what it would be like if he were still alive. “But then I wouldn’t be doing this, helping other people and the kids,” said Mata.
In 1993, Frankie Chavez and Nathan Mata were killed in a car accident on the way to Calipatria after a basketball game. A couple months later the Mata family decided to start
their fundraiser in their son’s name and a year later the Chavez family did the same. All to keep the memory of the two sons alive and honored in the community and their families. The two families make it a point to always be there for each other’s fundraisers.
The scholarship barbecue is always held on Nate’s birthday. Both he and Chavez would have been 40 this year.