For months now the Oceanside community has been working to support 14-year-old OHS student Lara Mesita, who nearly died in September after being hit by a car on her way to school. Amid the efforts, more than $72,000 has been raised on a Gofundme page set up on behalf of her family.
But beyond friends and loved ones, few in the neighborhood can claim the connection to Lara like J. Paul’s Terrace Café manager Joe Bonin, who in addition to running the restaurant, also served as the girl’s School No. 3 phys. ed. instructor during her time there.
That was why during Bonin’s recognition speech after being selected as the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year on Feb. 9, he used the opportunity to implore residents to come to J. Paul’s on March 10 for a fundraiser supporting her.
“We do a lot of fundraisers but I’ve known Lara since elementary school, so this fundraiser was extra special to me,” Bonin said by phone after the fundraiser, and added that it exceeded all expectations. “The community was so generous.”
But the highlight, he said, was a special appearance by Lara herself. “The best part of the day for me,” he recalled. “Was just seeing Lara smile.”