ROCKPORT, Texas – Communities along the Coastal Bend are still rebuilding nearly 18 months after Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc Aug. 25 in Texas.
To help relieve some of the recovery efforts, Ellen DeGeneres surprised students at Rockport-Fulton High school with the biggest gift she has ever given: $1 million.
"It really is the biggest gift we've ever given," Ellen said on April 16 during her show. "I know that your gym was more than just a gym to all of you. It was important to your entire community."
The donation, presented on her show in April 2018, was given to rebuild the school's competitive gymnasium that was destroyed by Category 4 Harvey.
KSAT traveled to Rockport the day after Harvey made landfall, capturing images of the heavily damaged campus including the gym.
Since then, the school has been utilizing its old gym that was built in 1957 and not suitable and too small to hold competitions such as volleyball games.
On Tuesday, school board members with Aransas County Independent School District broke ground on the state-of-the-art gym.
"Everything this town has been for the past, I don't know what 100 years, was gone in about a second, so it was hard," McCauley Duck, Rockport Fulton Student Council President, said. "It was good to be back but it was different than before."
#Breaking almost 18 months after Hurricane Harvey, School boards members break ground on a state-of-the-art gym after Ellen DeGeneres surprised students at a Rockport-Fulton High school with the biggest gift she’s ever given on the show — $1 million. pic.twitter.com/nkiP8D7vPx— KSAT Max Massey (@MaxMasseyTV) January 15, 2019
Becky Mach said she and her daughter wrote letters to Ellen in hopes of getting the gym rebuilt so local children could continue to be active during the recovery efforts.
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"We were completely displaced and the kids weren't here at school and the things that were so comforting to them, the things that kept them active in the community like the gym," Mach said. "(My daughter) said, 'Ellen will do something, I promise.'"
The new gym is set to hold more than 930 seats along with two projection screens in front of the home seating bleachers.
Rockport-Fulton High School Principal Scott Rogers said the gym is expected to be complete in Sept. 2019.
"Ten months from now, we are hoping to have it ready for the start of the school year," Rogers said.