Cierra Chamot lost her best friend, Heather Began, when an impaired driver crashed into her car in Phoenix in October 2019.
“She was bubbly,” Chamot said. “She always had a bubbly personality. She lit up any room she walked into. Her smile and laughter were contagious. She was my adventure buddy. We would go on random camping trips around Arizona. She loved her family, friends and God. Those were her three priorities, along with her students.”
Since Began’s death, Chamot has been honoring her. Both of them loved Christmas.
In October 2019, Chamot introduced Cookies N’ Cocoa, which raises school supplies for Estrella Vista STEM Academy and Tempe’s Rover Elementary School.
“I thought I would do an event in honor of her that benefited the school where she worked, Estrella Vista STEM Academy,” said Chamot, a 26-year-old Buckeye resident.
At a small Christmas get-together, Chamot collected books for the Avondale school that’s in the Littleton Elementary School District.
Last year, Chamot held a much larger public event that would benefit the two schools. She served free cookies and cocoa and collected school supplies in exchange.
“It started as a small Christmas party at my house, honestly,” said Chamot, who is an event tour manager and the office manager for Extreme Faith Productions in Chandler. “I wanted to do something in honor of Heather — something that supported what she loved, which was her students.”
She has also held a book drive, where she collected more than 1,000 books. Her goal was 260.
“Obviously, we blew that goal out of the water,” she said. “For the next year, I decided to do the event again, but on a bigger scale.”
During the summer this year, Chamot has been building a Christmas attraction. The support has been overwhelming, as donors have given her tools, wood, lights and trees. She is hosting a GoFundMe to raise money for the event. Visit https://bit.ly/BeganBenefit.
Chamot’s plan is to open the walk-thru event on Friday, Dec. 10, at Rover Elementary School, but with the pandemic, the plans could change.
“It will be even bigger,” she said. “There will be more to the North Pole, more stops along the way. It’s going to be a walk-thru this year.
“The whole set is built out of wood. For Mrs. Claus’ Bakery, we’re building baking display cases this year. With the GoFundMe, the money will go toward any event costs and anything over and above the event costs will go to school supplies.”
Chamot said Began’s family in Illinois is touched that she has done so much to remember her friend.
“A couple of her amily members are coming out this year for the event,” she said. “They’re really excited about it. They share it on Facebook all the time.”