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CHICO, Calif. — Football fans in Paradise and Chico got a special treat Sunday as the San Francisco 49ers hosted the last pregame and postgame of the season at Pleasant Valley High School.
"I was completely blown away. It was really unexpected," said Jamie Cottle, one of the thousands of people affected by the Camp Fire.
Cottle, a lifelong 49ers fan was thrilled to meet former players Jeff Garcia and Donte Whitner during the NBC Sports Bay Area preshow.
"As authentic of a fan as I am, I’ve never had the opportunity to go down to the Bay Area to watch a game, so to see them come out – I'm speechless about it," Cottle added.
Ben Westerlund, a junior and football player at Pleasant Valley High School told ABC10 it meant a lot to see the community come together after the tragedy they went through.
"It’s amazing to see people giving back to where they came from," Westerlund said, referring to PVHS alumnus Shane Wallen. "They know where they came from and to give back to the community. It’s just a blessing to have that."
Wallen, who grew up in Paradise and Chico, is now an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the 49ers. The Butte County native helped plan the event to honor students, athletes and staff affected by the Camp Fire.
"That small mountain town and those simple mountain folk are the reason I'm where I'm at today," Wallen said on Facebook, referring to Paradise. "So this is me, returning the favor. Paradise, I've got your back, ALWAYS."
"It’s nice to see that people from out of town know what’s going on here, and that they’re willing to help us because sometimes you don’t know if anyone is going to help you or not," said Parade High School student, Ezra Gonzales. "It really shows what humanity can do in times of need."
Former 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia said it was humbling to meet many of the Camp Fire survivors.
"To be here, to be a part of this is definitely a huge positive for me and a great experience," Garcia said. "It’s tragic, it’s sad to see, but it’s also good to see how they’re bouncing back."
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