By Elizabeth Lenart | Contributor
Friends and family members of Christian Sanchez, who at age 13 lost his life during a storm on a 2016 Boy Scout camping trip, gathered at sunset, August 2, at the field north of The Storehouse of Collin County, to share words of remembrance, participate in a balloon release, and assemble hygiene kits for neighbors in need. This was the fourth year that friends and family have hosted a service project in remembrance of Sanchez on his birthday and the third year the project has benefited The Storehouse of Collin County. Sanchez would have turned 18 this year.
“The year Christian died, the families at Trinity Christian Academy, where Christian attended school, organized a balloon release in remembrance of him,” said Rhonda Sanchez, Christian’s mother. “The next year through our church, St. Andrew United Methodist Church, we created ‘blessing bags,’ in celebration of Christian’s heart for service. Friends and family of Christian collected toiletries, books, and snacks, and prepared these bags for the homeless. We loved this idea of honoring Christian with a service project, and since 2018, our projects have benefited The Storehouse. In 2018, we packed backpacks with school supplies and provided food to the pantry. In 2019, we gathered again to stuff water bottles with fun supplies such as pencils, stickers, erasers, and more. This year, we packaged 1,000 hygiene kits, consisting of shampoo, soap, deodorant, toothpaste, a toothbrush, and mouthwash.”
Each participant arrived, holding their own balloons, setting a colorful backdrop for words of welcome by St. Andrew United Methodist Church Lead Preaching Pastor Arthur Jones and a prayer by St. Andrew Student Ministry Director Michael Agnew.
Just prior to the balloon release, Rhonda Sanchez spoke to the teens. “Thank you all for thinking of Christian and coming today. I think about you all a lot, and I have all this motherly advice with no one to share it with, so today I want to provide you with some encouragement. I know this senior year is not the senior year you had hoped for, but it can still be a really great year. Please take that to heart and do not be disappointed about what you can’t do. Instead, be eager to do something totally different that no one else has ever done. I remember a conversation that I had with Pastor Jones. He said, ‘While you may not have the life you expected, that doesn’t mean it can’t be a really great life.’ Thank you again for supporting us today.”
Candace Winslow, executive director, The Storehouse of Collin County, provided instructions for putting together the hygiene kits. “Christian was such an outstanding young man, and his mother is a dedicated volunteer at The Storehouse. There is no better way to commemorate Christian, who was all about serving others, with a project that will serve over 1,000 neighbors you may never meet. This has been a difficult year for our neighbors, and we know they will be incredibly grateful to receive these personal hygiene items.”
“It’s hard to believe this is the fifth birthday celebration we’ve had for Christian since he passed,” said Daniel Delp, a close friend and classmate of Christian’s from Trinity Christian Academy, who attended the event. “Every year, I look forward to releasing balloons in honor of his name as well as giving back to the community just as Christian would have done. We all miss him very much.”
Friends and family of Sanchez are also busy raising funds this summer for The Christian Sanchez Scholarship Fund at Trinity Christian Academy (TCA), established following his death to keep his memory alive and enable more students to attend TCA. In 2019, Sanchez’s family and friends launched the first garage sale fundraiser with all proceeds going to the scholarship fund, raising $5,000 in two days. The annual sale is happening again this year virtually via the Facebook group “Christian Sanchez Scholarship Fundraiser,” https://www.facebook.com/groups/302604084098786, with only porch pickup and drop-off. The community is invited to join the group, now more than 400 members strong, to shop and donate items for sale.
“Our hope is to keep going with the garage sale, raise $5,000 or more each year, and have $100,000 in the scholarship fund by the end of the upcoming school year, when Christian would have graduated,” added Rhonda Sanchez. “Every year as we get closer to the time of Christian’s accident, which was on July 21, it is very easy to feel sad, but through working with The Storehouse of Collin County and our annual garage sale, we can celebrate his memory together, help others, and have fun – just as Christian would have wanted us to do.”
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ABOUT THE STOREHOUSE OF COLLIN COUNTY:
The Storehouse of Collin County, a nonprofit whose mission is to feed, clothe and care for neighbors in one community, provides short-term assistance and long-term transformation to residents of Collin County in need: the Seven Loaves Food Pantry, serving 1,000 families a month; Joseph’s Coat Clothing Closet, providing an average of 4,000 garments each month; and Project Hope, a mentoring program supporting women in crisis. The program first began in 2009 under the name of Seven Loaves which provided only food pantry staples and grew over the years to meet a variety of needs. An estimated 130,000 people in Collin County live below the poverty level, more than half of which are children. In September 2018, The Storehouse received the North Texas Food Bank’s Partner Agency of the Year Excellence in Impact Award in recognition of its life changing services, meeting multiple needs for each family served. For more information, visit www.thestorehousecc.org.