King Antonio R. Hunt Winton III and his guard of Texas Cavaliers arrived at the KIPP University Prep/KIPP Un Mundo campus with the usual Fiesta flare on Tuesday. After arriving in a police-escorted motorcade, the fully-uniformed regalia court officials filed through the halls where students held out their hands for high-fives and cheered, “Viva!”

The Cavaliers will make many stops on their annual tour of local schools, handing out medals and inspiration to elementary school children, but their stop at KIPP’s westside campus was particularly exciting.

KIPP San Antonio students reach high to bump fists with a member of the Texas Cavaliers. Photo by Scott Ball.
KIPP San Antonio students reach high to bump fists with a member of the Texas Cavaliers. Photo by Scott Ball. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Winton, on behalf of the Texas Cavaliers Charitable Foundation presented a check for $250,000, the largest single financial grant awarded in the history of the foundation, to KIPP San Antonio.

“It’s unbelievable what this school does,” Winton said. “I’m so impressed with it.”

The orderly students listened eagerly as the king introduced his guard, as well as the queen and princess of the court. A distinctly girlish sigh came from the second and third-graders when Queen Lila Stevens and Princess Elizabeth Hughes were introduced wearing their glittering crowns.

King Antonio’s message for schools this year is simple: “Be a Champion.”

Students jump for confetti as it rains down upon them. Photo by Scott Ball.
Students jump for confetti as it rains down from above. Photo by Scott Ball. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Champions, King Antonio explained, are more than people who win. They are people who support others, and help them achieve their goals.

“It can be anybody you want, and it can be as many people as you want,” King Antonio said.

He called on members of the guard to list their champions. Night aide Triple Fuhrmann opened his blue uniform jacket to reveal a Tim Duncan jersey, drawing cheers from the students.

“They win on and off the court,” said Fuhrmann, citing the Spurs commitment to the community of San Antonio.

When the court posed the question to the students, third-graders Gabriel Peña and Riley Hernandez listed Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, respectively. King Antonio asked if they had any non-Spurs champions, and after some thought, the students decided that “military people,” and “Mom,” were champions as well.

Executive aide Henry Gonzalez pointed to KIPP CEO Mark Larson as a champion he admired. The court recognized several school champions, including Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4), KIPP’s chief engagement officer. They also recognized a teacher and two students, nominated by the staff and faculty of KIPP. These champions received the “royal kiss” from members of the court, the queen, and the princess. Second-grader Nicholas Esparza took the kiss like a champ, and retuned to his seat shaking his head. 

Second-grader Nicholas Esparza receives a royal kiss. Photo by Scott Ball.
Second-grader Nicholas Esparza receives a royal kiss. Photo by Scott Ball. Credit: Dimmick Diaries file photo

After the students, now fully riled up with Fiesta excitement, returned to class, the Cavaliers presented the $250,000 to Larson in a separate reception.

The Texas Cavaliers were founded in 1926 by John B. Carrington, originally as a social club. His purpose was to promote the values of the Alamo defenders, bravery and independence. What started as largely nostalgic — the club also promoted horsemanship as cars became more and more prominent — eventually turned to the future by investing in the children of San Antonio.

KIPP CEO Mark Larson shakes hands with King Antonio R. Hunt Winton III after receiving a large donation for KIPP San Antonio. Photo by Scott Ball.
KIPP CEO Mark Larson (left) shakes hands with King Antonio R. Hunt Winton III after receiving a large donation for KIPP San Antonio. Photo by Scott Ball.

The 500 men who make up the Cavaliers are still most recognizable for their pale blue uniforms and parade presence, but the Texas Cavaliers Charitable Foundation now serves a broader purpose. Since its inception in 1989, the foundation has given $3.5 million to non-profits serving San Antonio children. At the end of the 2016 giving campaign, largely centered around the ten days of Fiesta,  that number is expected to surpass $4 million.

“Ultimately it is this community that is transformed by the work you are supporting” said KIPP board member Bill Moll.

KIPP Board Member Bill Moll shares a thought with Texas Cavaliers in the KIPP San Antonio gymnasium. Photo by Scott Ball.
KIPP Board Member Bill Moll speaks to Texas Cavaliers in the KIPP San Antonio gymnasium. Photo by Scott Ball.

The grant to KIPP marks a new phase in charitable giving for the organization.

Every year the foundation reserves $50,0000 for an honoree, like KIPP. This year, because Larson agreed to grant the Cavaliers the naming rights to the gym at the new KIPP Cevallos campus, the board and friends of the foundation were able to match the grant five times.

Recipients of past donations from the Texas Cavaliers Charitable Foundation include family support organizations, mentoring programs, hospitals, schools, museums and arts institutions, homeless ministries, and organizations to support children and families facing specific medical diagnoses.

For a complete list of organizations see the foundation website here.

King Antonio R. Hunt Winton III along with fellow Texas Cavaliers celebrate as confetti blows from a meter that calculates noise levels of students. Photo by Scott Ball.
King Antonio R. Hunt Winton III along with fellow Texas Cavaliers celebrate as confetti blows from a meter that calculates noise levels of students. Photo by Scott Ball.
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Top Image: King Antonio R. Hunt Winton III high fives hallways lined with students at KIPP San Antonio on his way to the gymnasium. Photo by Scott Ball.

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Bekah McNeel

Bekah McNeel is a native San Antonian. You can also find her at her blog, FreeBekah.com, on Twitter @BekahMcneel, and on Instagram @wanderbekah.