There were many high school seniors throughout the Central Valley living out their final days in glory as their football seasons were extended to December.
Varsity football players from Selma, Sanger, Strathmore, Mendota and St. Mary’s (Stockton) were treated like professional athletes by thousands of screaming fans who filled local stadiums.
Sebastián Amezcua again touched the hearts of supporters nine years after his death. Amezcua’s parents decided to donate the 9-year-old’s organs.
Television commercials and the peddlers on the street remind us of the homeless camps, the sick, the children in hospitals, the under-represented veterans, the elderly, the wealthy and those living in debt.
Admittedly I get too close to many of the stories I write and photograph, but maybe it’s what keeps me human. I’ve been doing this here since 2002 (totally since 1999) and seen journalists from various outlets have little or no empathy for victims. While I do conduct interviews, I really do “talk” to people.
The splendor of high school football
Thousands of parents arrived early to high school football stadiums at Sanger, Strathmore, Selma and Stockton (St. Mary’s) to support their kids competing in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) section and state football playoffs all braving frigid winter temperatures. Many of Mendota’s supporters traveled to the Sutter Creek to watch the Aztecs compete against Amador.
Those teams lucky enough to win the Central Section titles were invited to the CIF regional bowl games. The players were treated with nearly the same glitter and fame of professional athletes.
Supporters hugged players and took “selfies” after victories, then later more hugs as players’ eyes welled up after a loss. Graduating seniors can only relive the excitement of obtaining a winning season and competing in a state championship, but the emotion runs deep for those who believe this was the best time of their life.
Continued impact from the drought
Once the homeless camp outside of Mendota near Highway 33 short of Firebaugh was emptied by Fresno County sheriff’s deputies last year, a small percentage of the residents found their way to shelters with the help of social workers.
Officials at Clinica Sierra Vista said they read the story in Vida prompting them to deliver medical attention prior to the closure and clearing of the area. They found residents, some addicts, huddled in small makeshift shelters made of plywood and anything that would keep out the elements. They used the restroom and bathed in the nearby canal. Local contractors also took advantage of the cheap labor.
The encampment lasted nearly five years. It sprouted up with about five Latinos, all farmworkers, who had for various reasons, including the drought, lost a place to stay. And it ended with about 55 of Fresno County’s homeless.
One of the first shelters on the north end of the 100-yard camp housed María Louisa Daniels. An immigrant from Sonora, México. She lost her Firebaugh home because the owner decided to sell the condominium. She later admitted to alcoholism. Daniels, who is in her 60s, ended at the Poverello House in Fresno, where she received medical attention. She was one of two former residents of the camp at the Poverello. In a follow-up visit with Daniels, she had hopes to make contact with her grown kids still living in México. Officials with the Poverello House provided Daniels with shelter, food, medical and dental appointments. Daniels was with her dog “Chula,” a poodle mix.
Sebastián Amezcua was killed in a car accident in Fresno nine years ago. His short life was reflected just over a month ago in a gathering where his parents, Germán and Jessi Amezcua, broke down over the memories of their eldest son. About 300 people attended the unveiling of Sebastián’s image for the Donate Life Float, a participant in the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena in January.
Sebastián was nine years old when he died. At the press conference held in north Fresno on Dec. 1, a poem was read in memory of Sebastián to the backdrop of slideshows of Amezcua family. Germán and Jessi added the final touches to the image.
Anyone with or without children present at the gathering felt the touch of Sebastián.