SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - One day before he receives his high school diploma, a Santa Maria senior received a graduation gift he’ll always remember live on the air on Coast 104.5 Wednesday morning.
"I can't even describe what this feels like,” said Francisco “Kiko” Chicas, moments after receiving a $4,400 Yamama custom Z sax saxophone purchased through a fundraising effort led by morning radio personality Adam Montiel.
"Kiko has been calling my show for years,” said Montiel. “Since he was like 9 or 10, and he was always super open and he would share things that were going on, the good and the bad and we kind of just got to know him and he kind of grew up on the air with us. We joked that we were kind of raising him on the air."
Through the years, Chicas shared his personal experiences, including many stories of his sometimes challenging upbringing in Santa Maria, which included supporting his mother while she battled and beat breast cancer.
"You know in school you get bullied, a lot of things happened like that and I would reach out to Adam and I knew that as a good friend he would help me overcome those challenges,” said Chicas.
While Chicas would speak to Montiel and his listeners over the radio, the two also developed a strong friendship off-the-air.
“I've been to his recitals, birthday parties, things like that, he's a special kid,” said Montiel.
Once in high school, Chicas flourished, particularly when he joined band. At Santa Maria High School, he learned to play five instruments, most notably the saxophone. He also became the drum major and was recently named the musician of the year.
However, with Chicas set to graduate on Thursday, it meant he would no longer have an instrument to play on his own.
Montiel said a listener suggested they purchase a saxophone for Chicas, which he agreed was a great idea.
However, Montiel quickly discovered the cost for a quality, top-of-the-line saxophone was expensive, running into the thousands of dollars.
In an effort to raise enough money, Montiel created a GoFundMe account, with a goal of $4,400. Once the online effort started, donations came rolling in.
"We were overwhelmed,” said Montiel. “Folks that listened to Kiko were willing to chip in from five, 25, 50, 100 bucks. Then we started seeing donations from a couple hundred and had a donation for $1,000."
The online drive raised $2,565, leaving the goal just under $2,000 from the amount needed.
Fortunately, officials with the Foundation for the Performing Arts Center heard about the story and wanted to contribute to the cause, so it donated the rest of the money needed to purchase the saxophone.
"It was bunch of people talking and making connections and it got done, it got done for Kiko,” said Montiel "It wasn't easy to get all this money put together, but when people came together, it happened and it was magical and really moving."
After receiving the saxophone live during the Up & Adam in The Morning Show, a clearly emotional Chicas described what the gift means to him.
"Now I have my own instrument, which means I can go out and play with the community,” said Chicas. “I don't have to rely on a school's instrument, I have my own that I can use to go play for various people and events."
Even while in high school, Chicas is currently a member of the Allan Hancock College band. He says is planning on attending nursing school at the college starting next semester.
"What's next is nursing program at Hancock,” said Chicas, who added he is hoping to later transfer to Cal State Northridge. “I want to be a registered nurse so I can help people in the community because they have helped me so much."
Even though Montiel conducted the fundraising effort during his radio show for the past few weeks, Chicas said the gift was a complete surprise.
"Absolutely no idea. No idea,” said Chicas. “(Adam) just called and asked me to come in today and I said sure because I'm graduating tomorrow maybe I wanted to see him one last time as a senior, so I had absolutely no idea this was happening."
Chicas will graduate with 519 other seniors tomorrow morning at Santa Maria High School. Few, in any, will be as happy as he will be.
"I'm extremely grateful for the Central Coast and all the listeners and I'm especially grateful for Adam and my family,” said Chicas.