More than 90 volunteers turned out to help with a spaghetti dinner Aug. 10 to benefit the family of Dante Garcia, the 16-year-old Coast Union High School student who died in a swimming accident at Nacimiento Lake late last month.
“The benefit spaghetti feed to support the grief-stricken Garcia family was successful beyond imagination,” Steve Kniffen of Cambria said. “No amount of money can ease their pain, but the love showed by this community gives me faith in the human condition. … Every restaurant in town contributed without hesitation. If you have a Cambria ZIP code, you are a lucky person.”
The following evening, at the Aug. 11 school board meeting, Coast Unified Superintendent Vicki Schumacher choked up as she called for a moment of silence in Dante’s memory.
Schumacher called Dante “a rising star at the high school” who “showed great leadership skills.”
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New Coast Union Principal Scott Ferguson echoed Kniffen’s praise for the community in its response to the tragedy.
“Our FFA students were amazing,” he said. “Our community was amazing.”
FFA adviser Darcy Dobrec said Coast Union sent a contingent of 14 students to show livestock at the California Mid-State Fair and returned with just 13 following Dante’s death. His classmates, she said, rallied to make sure the pig he had raised for the fair was shown properly.
“The biggest skill these kids learned this year was compassion,” she said. “They showed up that day, washed his pig and got it ready for sale. … That’s one thing you don’t get in the classroom is compassion.”
Dante played soccer and volleyball and ran cross country at Coast Union. He also took part in the YMCA Youth Institute/Digital Media Arts Program, winning an award for Best Promotional Video at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival Filmmakers of Tomorrow Showcase.
A memorial fund for Dante has been established at Heritage Oaks Bank in Cambria. For details, call John MacKinnon at 805-927-3260.