Up until a few days ago, many did not know of Crystal Pacheco, a first-grader from the southern Texas city of Edinburg who asked for some food and a blanket for Christmas.
Nashley Garcia, who lives in neighboring McAllen, was among those people.
Garcia was one of countless strangers who found out about Crystal through a Facebook post — and answered the girl’s Christmas wish. Crystal’s teacher at Monte Cristo Elementary School, Ruth Espiricueta, had shared her letter to Santa, saying “it breaks my heart” to hear students ask for things that many simply take for granted.
“I have binde good this day,” Crystal wrote. “This Christmas I would like a ball and a food. I need a blancet.”
The child’s mother said Crystal was thinking of her family when she wrote to Santa.
“She wrote the card thinking about her brother. She said she wanted the ball to play with him, food to have food at the house and a blanket because the house is too cold,” her mother, Maria Isabel Cortez, told ABC affiliate KRGV.
Espiricueta posted Crystal’s letter on Wednesday. The following day, Garcia was at the school with 20 blankets for students. She also brought special gifts for the letter’s writer, who she had assumed was a boy because the child wanted a ball for Christmas. She brought an Avengers blanket and three types of balls: a basketball, a soccer ball and a football.
Garcia said she had expected to just drop off the gifts, but school staff called Espiricueta, who then brought a shy, soft-spoken little girl from her classroom to meet Garcia.
“When I saw her, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s a girl!’ ” Garcia told The Washington Post. “I asked her why she wanted a ball. She wanted a ball to share with her older brother.”
Garcia said she knelt down next to Crystal as she unwrapped the balls with a big smile on her face.
“She just looked at me. She just said ‘thank you’ and she gave me a hug,” said Garcia, a 29-year-old student and mother of two.
Garcia then rushed to a Walmart store to buy Crystal some toys for girls and a Shopkins blanket, drove back to the school and dropped off the gifts.
“I felt like I needed to personally give something to this child,” she said.
Edinburg, with a population of 87,000, is in Hidalgo County, in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley. About 45 percent of the children in the county and nearly 34 percent of its population live in poverty.
Poverty in Texas is most prevalent near the border with Mexico. Five counties in South Texas (Hidalgo, Willacy, Zapata, Starr and Cameron) have the highest rates of poverty in the state.
Signs of poverty are apparent in the neighborhood where the school is located, Garcia said. Many live in RVs and trailer parks, where people don’t have heaters or running electricity.
The Post was unable to reach Espiricueta on Sunday, but she wrote on Facebook that several people have since donated money and blankets for the students. She said the school is hoping to receive 726 blankets that will be handed out to needy students and their families. As of Friday, the school had collected 615 blankets, ABC affiliate KRGV reported.
“We’re South Texas. We help each other,” Garcia said.