NAPLES, Fla. — For the past seven years, retired Air Force lieutenant colonel Ray LaPierre made the season bright for hundreds of underprivileged children. But when LaPierre passed away last month, members of Cypress Woods Golf and Country Club stepped up to make sure his legacy lives on.
Ray and Sharon Lapierre made sure the children of the Gargiulo Education Center got their gifts every Christmas since 2014. Each December the couple would buy gifts for all the kids of the education center, which serves more than 100 children of migrant workers.
“Even in his hospital bed, he was asking that the kids get their presents,” said Sharon Lapierre. “He is so proud of the Cypress Woods community. They really rallied around him and saw that the children still get their gifts.”
The gifts mean a lot to the kids. Garguilo serves around 100 school-aged children whose parents might not otherwise be able to provide presents.
“He helped my parents because they couldn’t even afford some gifts a few Christmases ago,” said Larry Ramirez, 14, who attends Garguilo. “I feel like Mr. Ray has got my back and my parents’ back.”
Added 11-year-old Eliza Martinez, who also goes to Garguilo: “We’re all happy knowing (Lapierre) was able to do this for us.”
Ray Lapierre died in November, before he could complete Christmas shopping. However, members of Cypress Woods picked up where Lapierre left off, buying all the remaining gifts.
“The donations kept coming in — more and more presents,” said Mary Asia, executive director of the Garguilo Education Center. “It just warmed my heart. I was thrilled to see the respect shown for Ray and Sharon.”
At Ray Lapierre’s celebration of life, held at Cypress Woods, children from the Garguilo Education Center sang to Sharon Lapierre as a thank you for all the couple did for them.
“We decided to sing to show appreciation for all the things (the Lapierres) have done for us,” Maria Deleon, 15, said. “It really meant a lot to us.”
And it meant a lot to Lapierre’s widow that her husband’s love of helping children lives on.
“I’m very happy to see that everyone came to rallied around and fulfilled his wish that the kids would get gifts again this year,” Sharon Lapierre said.
On Christmas Eve, members at Cypress Woods will help the Garguilo Education Center deliver gifts to the homes of all its students.
Even though Ray Lapierre can’t deliver the gifts, Sharon Lapierre told us that her husband would be happy knowing the children will still have a merry Christmas.