Woman’s ‘Cookies’ n ‘Cocoa’ Honors Life of Friend, Brings Healing and Hope to Rover School Community

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Cierra Chamot (left) hosted Cookies ‘n’ Cocoa at Rover Elementary, a Title 1 school in the Tempe School District, in memory of his late friend, Heather Began (right). Chamot has spent months planning every detail, from Santa’s workshop and interactive winter wonderland, to raffle prizes, music and food. –Photo courtesy of Cierra Chamot

By Meghann Sepulveda, Special for wranglernews.com

It was an instant connection for Cierra Chamot when she met her friend Heather Began at church several years ago. Began had recently moved from Illinois to Arizona to pursue her teaching career. The two young women shared a love of country dancing, adventure and Bible study. But on October 5, 2019, Began tragically died in a car crash just two days before her 26th birthday.

After losing her best friend, Chamot, 26, was overcome with grief. Yet as Christmas approached, she felt compelled to celebrate their favorite holiday and honor Began’s memory by giving back to students in need.

Ms Claus made an appearance, much to the children’s delight, at Cookies ‘n’ Cocoa at Rover Elementary in South Tempe. – photo wranglernews.com by Andrew Lwowski

“We both loved Christmas,” Chamot said. “Although losing her was one of the most difficult things I have ever experienced, I didn’t want to go through the holiday season feeling sad.”

That year, Chamot organized a Christmas-themed book drive at her home to benefit the school where Began had taught.

“She was an extremely dedicated and passionate teacher,” said Chamot. “Her students were so important to her.

Chamot’s family and friends have come together from near and far to support his effort. She received over 1000 pounds.

“It was amazing,” she said. “After this event, I wanted to organize a larger collection of school supplies to better meet the needs of the students the following year. We were able to collect and donate enough school supplies for the 860 students. “

Continuing the tradition

This year, Chamot hosted a community event – Cookies ‘n’ Cocoa – on Friday, December 10, at Rover Elementary, a Title 1 school in the Tempe School District. She spent months planning every detail, from Santa’s workshop and an interactive winter wonderland, to raffle prizes, music and food.

Hot chocolate was a favorite among the 500 who attended Cookies ‘n’ Cocoa on a chilly evening. – photo wranglernews.com by Andrew Lwowski

“It was a wonderful opportunity to bring people together, which has been difficult to do due to the pandemic,” said Edward Goldstein, director of Rover Elementary.

The event, which attracted around 500 people, was free to the community.

“Cierra is so selfless to do this out of the kindness of his heart,” Goldstein said. “We are more than grateful and privileged to have been a part of it.”

Goldstein says there is a need for school supplies throughout the year for families who cannot afford to buy them on their own. In addition, monetary donations provide food and gifts, especially during the holidays.

A greater sense of purpose

Santa’s visit to Rover Elementary made the festive gathering complete.– photo wranglernews.com by Andrew Lwowski

Guided by her faith, Chamot says giving back has helped her find greater meaning in life.

“Sometimes it can be hard to see the good, but I’ve found that it can come from a tragedy,” she said. “Honoring Heather’s life by giving back to the community and offering hope to others is what inspires me.

Chamot plans to continue this annual tradition and looks forward to one day hosting an event in the home state of Began, Illinois.

“I want to continue to have an impact,” she said.

If you are interested in contributing to Chamot’s efforts to raise funds for students in need, visit the GoFundMe account: https://gofund.me/2717b9e7.

A stroll down Candy Cane Lane put visitors in the holiday mood at Cookies ‘n’ Cocoa at Rover Elementary. – photo wranglernews.com by Andrew Lwowski


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