Although they are rivals in most situations, students from the Lompoc Valley’s two main high schools recently joined forces to help support some of their neighbors to the south.

The Associated Student Bodies at Lompoc and Cabrillo high schools collected $1,000 in donations at a Jan. 31 basketball game between the schools, and two representatives from Lompoc High delivered that money Wednesday to Santa Barbara High School, where it will be used to aid students and families who are still dealing with the aftermath of last year’s historic Thomas fire and last month’s deadly mudslides.

Lompoc High senior Casey Blout, the president of his school’s ASB, traveled with Lompoc High Principal Paul Bommersbach to Santa Barbara High on Wednesday morning to hand over the money.

“They were extremely welcoming and they seemed thankful,” Blout said of the welcoming group, which included members of Santa Barbara High’s ASB and SBHS Principal John A. Becchio. “They were super nice and were happy that we were willing to help.”

The money is set to be used to purchase gift cards that will be given to the 30 or so Santa Barbara High families that Becchio said are still struggling with housing and other necessities.

Bommersbach said the idea for the donation came from the students.

He noted that Lompoc High students got together last year to raise funds for the family of a classmate who died, and said that some students suggested doing something similar to help those South County families who have gone through so much since the Thomas fire began on Dec. 4.

The Thomas fire, which spanned Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, eventually grew into the largest wildfire in recorded California history and directly killed two people while destroying more than 1,000 structures. A little more than a month after the fire started, a winter storm in early January triggered mudslides that devastated the Montecito community. As of Wednesday, there were 23 people either confirmed dead or still missing due to the mudslides.

“People hear ‘Montecito,’ and they think that everyone is rich down there,” Bommersbach said, referring to the city’s reputation as being affluent. “That is not accurate. A lot of those families are hard-working families who aren’t rich and they need help, too. This was a time that our community took advantage of an opportunity to help another community out.”

Students from both Lompoc and Cabrillo high schools decided that the Jan. 31 basketball game between the schools, held on the Lompoc High campus, would be the perfect place to solicit donations.

“We knew there was gonna be a lot of people at that game,” Blout said, “so we partnered with Cabrillo and just saw it as kind of a great opportunity to help out.”

At the game, students from both schools, including some cheerleaders, walked around and asked for donations.

Bommersbach, who has been principal at his alma mater for six years, said this was the first time he could recall the Lompoc and Cabrillo Associated Student Bodies teaming up for something like this.

“It just happened to be good timing,” Bommersbach said. “We knew it would be a full house at the game and our community came through like they always do in supporting each other.”

Bommersbach pointed out that the support goes both ways. He noted that several South County-based organizations have assisted Lompoc Unified School District and Lompoc-area students in the past, with scholarships and other donations. Among the specific organizations he mentioned were the Santa Barbara Foundation and the Orfalea Foundation.

“Between both of our high schools (in Lompoc), probably hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Santa Barbara area have gone to our students for scholarships,” he said.

Blout noted that he is among those students.

“It was personal for me in that Santa Barbara has helped me out with scholarships and stuff like that and given me an opportunity to pursue higher education,” he said. “But, for me, it was more about representing our community and ASB and this school as a whole, and helping them out in these difficult circumstances.”

Bommersbach said he was not surprised that the students were able to raise so much in such a short time.

“It confirms this community is just a giving community and helps to take care of those in need,” he said. “Whenever there’s something that happens, this community finds a way to step up. I’m happy our students are following in those footsteps and doing the same thing.”

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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