Sometimes indescribable tragedy can result in acts of pure and healing compassion and generosity.
That is what happened at Reagan Educational Center schools and its surrounding community following the tragic death of 14-year-old Clovis East High School freshman Bill Moua. The second oldest of seven siblings, Moua died in a car accident on his way to school on Dec. 5.
Bill Moua had missed the school bus that morning so his father, Thao, asked oldest son Richard to drive Bill to school. Richard Moua stopped at a two-way stop at Leonard and Shields avenues, just a mile away from the high school, but then collided with a Ford Edge going westbound on Shields. Both drivers survived, but Bill Moua died at the scene.
According to friends and family, Bill Moua was a hard-working and accomplished student who loved to draw and play basketball. He excelled in science and won many awards in the subject at Reyburn Intermediate School.
Moua’s death was devastating for his family and friends. The large but close-knit school community started rallying to raise funds for his traditional five-day Hmong funeral and to help his family.
A family relative set up a Go Fund Me account online, where nearly $7,000 was raised over 12 days. In addition, CEHS staff and students, businesses and community members contributed to a total donation of $11,000 which was given to the Moua family during a Celebration of Life event for Bill.
Several businesses went “above and beyond the call of duty,” said Reagan Educational Center Deputy Principal Erin Parker.
“Our community truly embraced the Moua family over the past weeks,” Parker said. “The Guadalajara Restaurant came to campus and served lunch to students and staff in exchange for donations. Lines stretched through the middle of campus as students waited to give their donation and enjoy a delicious burrito. One hundred percent of the money collected was donated to the Moua Family.”
For Guadalajara owner Richard Garcia, the Moua family tragedy really hit home. He lost his sister, Nadine, a senior at Clovis West High, in a car accident in September 2005. The family makes it a mission to pay back the community, as they were recipients of many kindnesses years ago when their home burned down and they lost everything.
“In 1989, our home burned down several months after we had opened our first restaurant at Weber and Shields avenues. Our customers brought their business to us and also helped at the restaurant by bussing tables and washing dishes and bringing us clothing and shoes,” Garcia said. “When we heard about the Moua family, I called the school and asked how we could help. For us, it’s always about giving back to the community who helped us when we needed it.”
Larson Brothers Photography also donated money and their photography services to the Moua family, and Renewal Body Works on Clovis and Shaw avenues hosted a car wash and raised over $2,600 for the family. Reagan Educational Center Principal Chuck Sandoval’s father owns the business where the car wash was held.
“My dad, Charlie Sandoval, said it was great to see a group of students working together for a great cause,” Chuck Sandoval said. “He was just thankful to have a part by donating his shop to raise money for the Moua family.”
Chuck Sandoval considers the Reagan Educational Center to be a tight-knit family,
“We have encountered life’s biggest challenge as we cope with the loss of Bill,” Chuck Sandoval said. “Our community has come together to honor Bill and offer support to his family. This outpouring of love came about because of the tremendous impact Bill had on all of us.”
For the Moua family, the community support was a life saver during their difficult and overwhelming situation.
Thao Moua and his wife, Der Yang-Moua, are grateful and humbled by the comfort and encouragement they’ve received from everyone from friends and family to virtual strangers.
“We couldn’t believe that so many people cared about us, cared about Bill,” Thao Moua said. “It was a blessing from God. Even though we can’t bring Bill back, we are so full of thanks that everyone was so helpful.”
Tragedy and its responding outpouring of support are not new to the Clovis East community. Although the leadership students and others have spearheaded food drives, anti-bullying campaigns and led community service projects, supporting victims, their families and each other is “one of the biggest things our family has had to deal with,” Principal Sandoval said.
“It gave me a lot of respect and pride that we all came together,” he said. “I gained great comfort during this difficult situation through the level of support and love that came from our schools and the community.”
When 14-year-old Clovis East freshman Bill Moua was killed in a car accident on Dec. 5, the Reagan Educational school family and community rallied to raise more than $11,000 to help the family.
By Carol Lawson-Swezey