For more than 30 years, Coach Gregory Blatch sold doughnuts, organized dunk-tank fundraisers and planned dances to raise money to take Ojus Elementary School's safety patrol on a spring trip to Washington, D.C.
Before school ended last year, he promised his students he would do whatever it takes to get them to the nation's capital this year to visit the monuments and learn how government runs.
But Blatch, who taught physical education to thousands of Northeast Miami-Dade schoolchildren for more than 30 years, never made it back to school this fall. He died this summer from a heart attack.
Now, with only a few months to go before the trip, Blatch's former colleague and friend Patrenia Dozier-Washington, a first-grade teacher, said she is hoping to fulfill the promise Blatch made to his students.
"He would do anything not to let them down," she said, adding that with rising costs for airfare and hotels, only 25 children have signed up. In years past, there has always been more than 50.
“We've got to do this for him,” she said. “No one should not be able to go because of money.”
So on Saturday, the school will honor Blatch’s life and legacy at a dinner at Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale Beach. The money raised from the $45-a-person event will go toward the school’s PTA to help send students — who may not be able to afford it — on the trip. A portion will also go toward the Sickle Cell Foundation, a charity Blatch always helped.
Many former students have stepped up to help, including one who works at Mardi Gras Casino and arranged for the casino to provide the location and the food for the event, Dozier-Washington said.
In addition to the fundraiser, the school is also working to keep Blatch‘s memory alive.
On Wednesday, the former and current students, dignitaries and staff will gather at 9 a.m. to dedicate a portion of West Dixie Highway in front of the school at 186th Street just west of Biscayne Boulevard.
Blatch’s wife, Carlotta Blatch, said she overwhelmed by the efforts of the school.
“I always knew he was special,” said Blatch, who would have celebrated her 38th anniversary with him Thursday. “But I didn’t realize how special he was to everyone else.”
In June, hundreds gathered on the school’s field to tell stories and release balloons in his honor.
Dozier-Washington said she can’t let Blatch down.
“I can’t wait to see those children get on a plane and fly to Washington,” she said.
What: Mr. Gregory Blatch: Celebrating His Life and Legacy
When: The formal event will be heald from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday
Where: Mardi Gras Casino, second floor banquet hall, 831 North Federal Hwy, Hallandale Beach
Cost: $45 a person, a portion going toward Ojus Elementary’s PTA for the trip and a portion going to The Sickle Cell Foundation, Blatch’s favorite charity. Checks or Money Orders must be made payable to Ojus Elementary School PTA
To RSVP or for information: Visit Ojuspta.com or call 305-931-4881