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By Bob Narang

RICHARDSON, TEXAS – Pearce High School senior Antonio Ramirez made sure to take in the moment when he and nearly 40 other high school boys and girls soccer players from the Dallas area made a surprise visit to a local elementary school on Jan. 15.

A part of the Making A Difference On AND Off The Field campaign presented by the PepsiCo Showdown and Buddy’s HELPERS, Ramirez and Co. helped create a lifelong memory by delivering new bikes to 100 second-grade students at Bukhair Elementary.

“They were all jumping with excitement and rushing to get their own bike (after the curtain opened),” Ramirez said. “I wish I had a bike as a kid, so being able to see these young kids’ expressions really touched my heart.

“As a kid growing up in the (same) neighborhood, there is lot of poverty surrounding the school. Not every kid is blessed with the same privileges, so being able to give back to the school and the kids where I grew up was a blessing.”

The special moment was made possible thanks to the help of 2,000 Chicago-area high school soccer players that donated $1 apiece. They then partnered with Dallas-area student athletes from Coppell, Southlake Carroll, Pearce and Highland Park High Schools to deliver the bikes to the second graders as many of their families watched.

“I attended Bukhair when I was in elementary school,” Pearce senior Braulio Cuadra said. “The kids were so excited. It was a special day, and I was thankful for the opportunity to be a part of it.”

Each second grader also received a superhero cape, which turned them into a kindness hero. In addition, every second grader was given a $1 bill to do something special for the first-grade classes during National Random Acts of Kindness Week in the middle of February.

“I imagined the kids would be excited, but seeing the response in person was very heartwarming,” said Highland Park senior Megan O’Neal, who earned All-America honors as a junior. “I was thrilled to attend and seeing the joy on each of the kids’ faces is something I’ll never forget.”

Coppell senior Clara Centeno said one of the coolest moments of the surprise was when some of the second graders talked about their interactions doing a kind deed at some point in their lives.

“The kids were so happy and friendly when they greeted us, it was completely unexpected,” said Centeno, whose team is currently ranked No. 1 in the country and is unbeaten in 89 of its last 102 games over the past four years. “Many of the kids were offering hugs and high-fives. Their response to the bikes was the best part, just from the screams of joy and watching them all run toward the bikes.”

Pearce boys soccer coach Sean Dowlatshahi noted that many of his players knew several of the students who received bikes. Both Bukhair Elementary and Pearce, which has won five district titles in the last 10 years, are located in Richardson.

“A couple of our players had nephews and cousins at the school, so they were able to make a personal connection since the kids were from their own community,” Dowlatshahi said. “They just loved it.”

Highland Park senior Ryan Bozman, a captain and National Merit Scholar, admitted the Making A Difference On AND Off The Field moment left a lasting impression about the importance of making a difference.

“Seeing the smiles on the faces of the children before they even knew they were getting bikes was the greatest thing,” Bozman said. “I was shocked by the excitement of each and every student. Every single one left with a smile on their face.”

Bio On The Reporter: Bob Narang has been covering prep recruiting and sports for the past 25 years. His work also appears in the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, Athlon Sports and the Daily Chronicle.