Village Meadows Elementary

Second graders at Village Meadows Elementary await a pizza lunch, bikes, helmets, and a visit from Arizona Coyotes mascot Howler.

For the past 13 years, Village Meadows Elementary second graders have been gifted a special lunch, a new bike and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus. The school normally partners with Midway Chevrolet to make this joyous event happen, but as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and trying to keep everyone safe, Midway pulled out of the December 18 event. 

“We had the chance to talk to the boss (at Midway Chevrolet), and they said they were going to pass,” said Deer Valley Superintendent Dr. Curtis Finch. “We are really appreciative of them keeping the tradition alive, and this year they couldn’t, which is fine.”

Finch wanted to keep the tradition alive. The Deer Valley Education Foundation helped raise money to buy the bikes and lunch but ended up $3,000 short. That is where the Arizona Coyotes came in.

Finch met Brittani Willett, executive director of the Foundation/Corporate and Community Impact for the Arizona Coyotes, a week prior as panelists for a WESTMARC event discussing a partnership with education and business.

“(Brittani) said if you ever need any help, here is my card,” Finch said. “She shouldn’t have done that.”

He called Willett asking if they would help make up for the rest of the funds and bring Coyotes mascot Howler along for the fun, and she agreed.

“What a perfect way to kick off our partnership, so we were excited to come in and help support,” Willett said. “We were able to provide some funding to be able to get 43 bikes for the second graders here and helmets to keep everyone safe, and then bring Howler out and some Coyotes goodies as well.”

The second graders walked into the cafeteria on one of the last days of school having been told prior that they were not going to be getting a bike like some of their older siblings had in years prior. Confusion was met with excitement once the children saw Howler run through the red and green paper, revealing the bikes behind.

Each second grader received a Coyotes drawstring bag filled with small goodies and a Howler coyote-shaped hat. Some kids asked around in amazement if each of them was going home with a bike and goodies or just a select few.

“This is what we are here to do—bring joy to the community and to provide things that people are needing,” Willett said.

“It is tough to be on the ice right now, but we still want to be out in the community. We want people, when they think about the Coyotes, to not just think winning on the ice but also winning off the ice and just to stay out there in the community and helping where we can.”

For Village Meadows Principal Melissa Weinman, this was her ninth year helping with this event.

“I guess the best way to say how I feel is that this brings a little bit of normalcy to these kids’ lives in a world where nothing is normal right now—not even at school is normal,” Weinman said.

“Knowing that they’re getting a bike, for some it is their first bike that they’ll ever get and for some this is their only Christmas gift. Know that I’m helping to provide a little bit of normalcy makes me feel good. Oftentimes kids have a hard time expressing themselves, but I know this means the world to these kids and I know it means the world to me know that they are so excited. It’s a good feeling to have right now.”