Garcia Foundation helps local students attend camp

Organization named after Del Oro student donates $1,000
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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It has been 10 years since John Garcia died from bacterial meningitis, but his legacy continues through a foundation and scholarships. John, who grew up in Loomis, was a member of the Del Oro High School Class of 2000 and passed away just nine days after graduation. He was an athlete and outdoorsman and his death shocked the community. John was one of numerous young people who contracted the illness and died that year in what was called a “cluster” of deaths in the Sacramento area. Recently, Loomis Grammar School students benefited from a foundation set up as a memorial to John. The John Garcia Memorial Youth and Wildlife Foundation donated $1,000 to help seventh-grade students at Loomis School attend an outdoor camp at Fort Bragg. John’s father, Jim, said he became aware that some families were unable to pay for their children’s trips and approached the John Garcia Foundation for the donation. “It’s good to be able to bring something back home,” Garcia said. The idea of a foundation began a year after John’s death. Randy Orzalli, a family friend, asked his students in a continuation class in Sacramento to make wood duck nesting boxes to put along an area creek as a memorial to John. Orzalli said the project was so well-received by the students that it sparked the idea of a foundation in John’s honor that would provide outreach to inner city students to bring them to the outdoors. Recently, Garcia and principals Rick Judd of Loomis School and Glenn Lockwood of H. Clarke Powers School discussed the possibility of the foundation providing shad fishing days for local students who may never have had the opportunity to fish before. “John loved hunting and fishing. Growing up, he was right by my side,” Garcia said. Since John’s death, Del Oro graduates have also benefited from a memorial scholarship set up in John’s honor. Each year, it goes to an outstanding student in the school’s special education program. “John’s legacy is his outreach to those less fortunate kids at school who were bullied,” his father, Jim Garcia said. Garcia estimates that over the years $15,000 to $20,000 in scholarships have been awarded in his son’s name. An untold number of families may have also been spared tragedy by political activism taken by the Garcia family. According to Garcia, after John’s death the family discovered that a vaccine was available that would have prevented the type of meningitis John succumbed to. At the time, most people didn’t know the vaccine was available and it was not recommended by government health agencies. The Garcias worked with then-state Senator Rico Oller to bring about legislation that changed how the state viewed the meningitis immunizations. A year after John’s death, a state law was passed that required the Department of Health Services to develop and implement a meningococcal disease strategic prevention plan and encouraged public and private medical facilities to provide meningococcal immunization to children whose families wanted them. A related bill passed at the same time required state health services to develop specified meningococcal disease and vaccine information, and to make it available to school districts and colleges and universities. The two bills brought the vaccine to the public’s attention and made it readily available to those who want it. ------------- MENINGITIS What: An inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord Types: Viral, fungal and bacterial. Bacterial can be deadly. Symptoms: Fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and altered mental status. Medical treatment: Seek medical attention and diagnosis early. Source: California Department of Health Services