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Families thrilled after man buys out entire school book fair

A spur-of-the-moment decision prompted a car salesman to team up with his boss to buy out an entire school book fair.

Families thrilled after man buys out entire school book fair
Ronnie Vargas and a student pick out a book.
Independence School District
SMS

A random act of kindness had a major impact on parents, students and staff at a Kansas City-area elementary school.

Ronnie Vargas, a salesman at Bob Sight Ford, was at Santa Fe Trail Elementary in Independence, Missouri, on Friday as a representative at the school's Donuts with Grownups event, which his company donated donuts to. 

He initially hadn't planned on attending the book fair, but his niece — who attends the school — insisted they stop by.

When he arrived, he overheard multiple conversations along the same lines.

"You kind of heard the rumblings of, 'No, we can't get that this year, Christmas is too close,'" Vargas said. "Book fairs are expensive; you know, it's not like back in the day when you could get a book for two bucks. Some of these books are $10, $20."

These conversations made Vargas think back to his own childhood growing up with his family in the same district.

"We had to hear the same thing, like, 'No, book fairs are expensive; we can’t do this,'" he said.

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Vargas realized in that moment that he wanted to turn those "no's" into "yeses."

"It was just a spur of the moment, ‘Hey, I think this would be awesome,'" he said.

So, he reached out to his boss and pitched the idea.

"I texted my owner, and I was like, 'Hey man, here’s kind of what I’m seeing, it’d be awesome if we just bought this book fair out and donated it to ‘em,'" Vargas said. "And without hesitation, he was just like, 'Absolutely.'"

The news came as a shock not only to the school staff, but also parents like Maggie Allen, who were already prepared to spend money at the fair.

"I’m a server, so money is kind of tight, especially around Christmas," Allen said. "With $40 in [my] pocket, I was going to spend it on my kids at the book fair."

Not only could she save that $40, but she could get multiple books for her children.

"He wouldn’t let me pay for anything," Allen said. "He said it was all free."

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With the holidays around the corner, Vargas says the timing was also a factor.

"Some of the families as they were going through, they were like, 'You know, we were just here for donuts, like this was either gonna be hey, if we go to the book fair, there’s no Christmas,’" he said.

Allen's son Owen got a book from the book fair. One of his initial thoughts had to do with how unheard of something like this was.

"If you bought a whole book fair, that's a lot," he said.

And it was. Vargas says in total, the bill came out to be almost $8,000.

"I don't care how much money you have, $7,600 isn't a little amount," he said. "It's not a small number. So just to be able to ask [his boss] like that and him not even think twice about it, and then getting to go up and tell the librarian, she just instantly broke down. She was like, 'We can do this again now.'"

Vargas says it was by far one of the "coolest" moments of his life, but what made everything worth it was the gratitude he witnessed.

"These are kids that typically don't get to just walk in there and pick out whatever they want," he said. "Seeing the true gratitude that was on their faces, and this wasn't just a, 'Yeah, thanks for doing that,' this brought tears to some people's eyes."

Years after hearing "no," he said telling kids "yes" was an unmatched feeling.

"Go grab it, get everything you want," he said to kids at the fair. "Just to see their little faces light up, 'cause that was essentially Christmas for them."

As a father of a 5- and 8-year-old, Vargas says the value a book brings to a kid's life — especially in an era of constant technology and electronics — is not lost on him.

"Just to see the kids get excited about books was huge," he said.

Allen says having a chance to express her gratitude firsthand was incredibly important.

"It was amazing, and we just thanked him a million times," Allen said. "It was just the best act of kindness we could ask for, honestly."

The article was originally published by Rachel Henderson at Scripps News Kansas City.