LA QUINTA, Calif. - "Caring." "Inspiring." "Funny."
These are just some of the words those who were close to Coach Tom Jenkins use to describe him.
Tom was a wrestling coach, student body advisor, and a mentor to countless students for 12 years at La Quinta High School.
"He could look at a person and know what it was they needed and give that to them," said Daniel Gray, a senior at LQHS and one of Tom's students in the Associated Student Body.
"Everybody has story they can tell about how he helped them in some way," said Marcy Herrera, senior class advisor at LQHS, and colleague of the late coach.
Tonight the school wanted to give something back, by hosting a memorial dinner to raise money for Tom's family. Students even sold T-shirts that read "Jenkins Trained," "Our coach, Our friend, Our family." All the proceeds go to those Tom leaves behind: his wife, two daughters and a stepson.
"This event is all about him and his family. We're trying to support them as much as we can because his two daughters go here and we want to make sure they're taken care of," said Luis Castellanos, a senior at LQHS who calls Tom his mentor.
And at tonight's football game Tom's daughters received a special surprise, made possible by someone their dad made a lasting impression on.
"Mr. Jenkins took my nephew aside at one point and had a little talk with him, growing up as a freshman, and it was kind of an influence on him. I wanted to do something kind of to help the family out," said Jack Schwartz, the Parts and Services Director at Coachella Valley Volkswagon. His son is also a senior at LQHS.
Thanks to Jack and a generous donation from the dealership, Tom's family drives home tonight in a brand new Volkswagon Jetta.
"It's three years, they don't have to make a payment. Everything is paid for. It comes out to a $10,000 donation," Schwartz said.
Tom's wife, Kim, was overwhelmed with emotion. She says the family is doing their best to cope, taking it day by day. But they're grateful the community has come together to show how much they cared for her husband.
"My husband was such a huge part of this community and he obviously touched so many lives that that allows me to accept everyone's graciousness, and gifts," Kim said.
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