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Valley woman continues Christmas-themed school fundraiser honoring her friend

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Posted at 9:59 PM, Dec 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-11 00:24:38-05

TEMPE, AZ — Just like Santa makes a list and checks it twice, Cierra Chamot is paying close attention to her list of things to kick off this year's "Cookies and Cocoa" event.

Cierra started a fundraiser a couple of years ago in memory of her friend Heather Began.

"I love Christmas. She loved Christmas. I am struggling with grief right now and needed to do something to honor her,” said Chamot.

Heather died in October 2019 when a car slammed into her car near 35th Avenue and Grand.

Her friend, Cierra, has been holding events ever since to remember the Valley school teacher.

Friday's walk down Candy Cane Lane through the North Pole and pictures with Mrs. Claus raised money to buy school supplies.

Rover Elementary School's principal has already spent $7,000 on supplies this year and says this effort will go a long way.

"This event absolutely impact[s] this school in a positive that will allow me to redistribute funds to allow kids to go on field trips, bring in visitors, take students to plays, or have other opportunities outside of the classroom,” said Principal Edward Goldstein.

Heather's family is experiencing this event for the first time.

"She loved the kids. She loved Christmas. This was her favorite time of the year. To see it all come together through the pictures, including some pictures we haven't seen, it was just incredible,” added Robert Began.

Cierra’s overall goal for Cookies & Cocoa is to spread the love and honor for her best friend while making sure everyone experiences Christmas cheer.

"It felt like Christmas. It felt so happy. The kids were happy because they saw the lights. You see them smile because they were so happy,” said Cynthia Castillo, who attended the event.