TEMPE, AZ — An Arizona school teacher died in a tragic accident two years ago and her best friend is making sure her legacy lives on.
Heather Began was a teacher at Estrella Vista STEM Academy in Avondale. She and Cierra Chamot shared a love for the holidays, country dancing, bible study, and traveling just about anywhere at a moment’s notice.
“She was my adventure buddy, but she was also the person I could go to with anything,” said Chamot.
But on Oct. 5, 2019, everything changed when a car crash took Began’s life.
“Every thought goes through your head like, 'this can’t be happening to me. I just lost my best friend,'” said Chamot.
Chamot took her grief into action, organizing a Christmas-themed book drive at Began’s school only two months after her death.
“When Christmas came I was like, we need to do something in honor of Heather that supports something she loved which was students,” said Chamot.
The following year, she created an even bigger event to benefit local schools, serving free cookies and cocoa and collecting school supplies in return.
“My dream is to make it bigger and better every year,” said Chamot.
Throughout the month of July in triple-digit heat, Chamot has been collecting the tools to build, by hand, another winter wonderland. Residents from across the Valley have donated items like wooden boards to build Santa’s workshop, Christmas lights, and Christmas trees.
Chamot will begin constructing the North Pole in August and it will be ready for visitors on December 10 at Rover Elementary School in Tempe, where a school supply drive will be held. An exact time will be announced at a later date.
Chamot says Began would be proud to see all she’s accomplished for Valley schools.
“To see an event that she had such a large part of, but that is making such an impact in Phoenix Valley schools and to Phoenix VGalley teachers and students and parents and all of that, I think she’d be really excited,” said Chamot.