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SMITH: Credit card helps bring Alexis home

Published: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 6:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 6:08 p.m.

Alexis Vargas, the accomplished Santa Rosa teen badly hurt in a Christmas-vacation highway crash in Mexico, is back in California.

It took some serious doing to cover her bills at a hospital in Saltillo and to arrange to fly Alexis and her dad to San Francisco. Members of Rotary clubs on both sides of the border stepped up big time, along with friends of Alexis and her cousin, Cristina Vargas, at Elsie Allen High.

Money raised by Elsie students paid part of the cost of the treatment Alexis received at a Mexican hospital. When a Rotary leader in Mexico who befriended Alexis and her dad went to pick her up from the hospital, he was told there was still a fair amount of money due.

So he handed over his credit card.

“These Rotarians are a special bunch,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo, who's been coordinating relief efforts since Alexis and Cristina were injured in the Dec. 23 crash that killed Cristina's mother.

Local Rotary members have responded heroically because Alexis, who's now in a hospital in San Francisco, has been active in Elsie Allen's Interact Club, sponsored by the Santa Rosa Sunrise Rotary Club.

The international response also will benefit Cristina, who remains hospitalized in Texas. Hopes are that by next week she'll be up to a trip back to California, too.

PASTA AND MUSIC will be plentiful at a benefit that's coming together for the girls.

It will happen from 2 to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 27, in Finley Hall at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

“Pasta King” Art Ibleto will serve his famous food and several groups of talented Elsie Allen kids will perform.

A meal will cost $5. Watch for details on how to donate to the silent auction.

The event also will honor the memory of Cristina's mother, María Torres Garcia.

FAREWELL, SKIPPY: Olympic figure skating gold medalist Scott Hamilton flew across the U.S. to take part in a celebration of the life of our Skippy Baxter, the humble star who taught Sonoma County to love the ice.

Tuesday's tribute happened, of course, at Redwood Empire Ice Arena, or Snoopy's Home Ice. Skippy was the catalyst for late “Peanuts” cartoonist Charles Schulz and his first wife, Joyce, to build the arena in 1969.

Through four decades, Skippy taught generations of youngsters to skate. He last visited the arena, stopping for hugs and kisses from admirers of all ages, shortly before his death on Dec. 18 at 93.

Scott Hamilton, who earned Olympic gold in 1984 and lives now in Nashville, told the crowd at the memorial his skating career would not have been what it was had Skippy not taught him his signature backflip.

Pointing to the southwest corner of the rink, Hamilton said, “He gave me my first lesson. It was right there.”

Photos from Skippy's extraordinary life flashed on a screen, accompanied by a song he dreamed up for the occasion — one with a familiar tune but original lyrics.

He'd titled it, “Don't Cry for Me, Ice Arena.”

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