Collier County communities stepping up to continue a legacy of giving

Published: December 24, 2021 5:51 PM EST
Updated: December 24, 2021 10:09 PM EST

One man’s holiday tradition of giving to the community lives on even after his death. Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Ray LaPierre purchased gifts for more than 100 underprivileged kids every year, but he died one month ago, unable to fill his annual Christmas wish.

Others have stepped in to continue his legacy of giving.

They’re experiencing a loss this Christmas Eve, but Ray LaPierre’s wife and son said they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Ray’s wife Sharon said, “he was just real excited to be with the children and see that they could get gifts for Christmas.”

Four years ago, Ray and his wife Sharon heard about the children at Garguilo Education Center and came to the center’s Executive Director, Mary Asta, with an idea.

“We want to start a Christmas program for them, and that’s how it began. So, he got all of the Cypress Woods involved,” said Asta.

Every year since Ray led the charge to make sure the children at the center and all of their brothers and sisters had gifts on Christmas.

14-year-old Larry Olmedo Ramirez said, “I feel very grateful for these presents because back when this program didn’t even exist, my parents couldn’t even give presents.”

Ray died last month before he could get everyone presents, so nearby communities worked to keep the program alive.

Kim Koehl, a community member from Mediterra, said, “we were delighted to partner with ray’s legacy at cypress woods to just enhance this great, great program.”

And made sure no child missed out on a present this year.

“Sharing the fun of my dad and his passing with families and kids like this is just perfect, perfect way to remember him,” said Ray’s son Scott.

Just like ray would’ve wanted.

The children at the center made a list of three things they wanted for Christmas, and community members from nearby communities like Cypress Woods, Mediterra, and Vanderbilt Country Club made sure to get every single child at least one of the things on their list.