BELTON — A soldier returning from deployment surprised his family just before a high school football game Friday — thanks to help from the Belton Independent School District.

Beatriz Ureste and her children, Arianna, Pablo and Andy, were participating in the district’s annual United Way Kids Campaign Spirit Chain display during the pre-game activities before the Belton Tigers faced the Killeen Kangaroos on Friday night.

BISD campuses sell strips of red and white construction paper each year to build their spirit chain and support the United Way. At the end of the campaign, students come out onto the field at a football game to show off the length of their chain.

During the activities, a second mascot appeared on the field at Tiger Stadium. The Urestes were persuaded to pose with this extra Tigo for a picture, who then took off his mask to reveal he was actually Beatriz Ureste’s husband, Sgt. Pablo Ureste.

A 20-year U.S. Army veteran, the sergeant had been deployed to South Korea for the past year. Through her surprise and emotion, Arianna Ureste was able to say that her father’s return “means the world to me.”

“I know there were many people that made this happen,” Sgt. Ureste said. “I just want to say thank you.”

BISD spokeswoman Elizabeth Cox called organizing the surprise a “meaningful challenge.”

Lt. Col. David Blasko and the Belton High Junior ROTC, media tech teacher Mark Fitzwater, the athletic department, and staff from Sparta Elementary, Belton High School and Belton New Tech @Waskow all worked together to pull it off, Cox said.

“A handful of dedicated BISD staff worked hard to organize and maintain the surprise,” Cox said. “Mrs. Ureste and her children participated in the United Way Kids Campaign Spirit Chain display and then were expecting to be a part of another special military family recognition.

Belton ISD was recently honored for its cooperation with Fort Hood in attempting to make soldiers and their families feel at home and ease their transition when they move into the area.

The Military Childhood Education Coalition presented the 2017 retired Lt. Gen. H.G. “Pete” Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award to the district and the post this summer.

United Way of Central Texas CEO Stephanie O’Banion joined the students on the field during the spirit chain display. BISD raised more than $15,292 for the United Way of Central Texas this year.

Friday night’s game — in which Belton beat Killeen 28-21 — featured another community service campaign, the “Think Pink Go Red” program.

The campaign started in 2011 as tribute to Sherrie Harper, a BISD employee and former cheerleading mother. Since then, “Think Pink Go Red” has raised more than $70,000 in donations for the Baylor Scott & White Cancer Institute.

To support the campaign, Belton High School cheerleaders sell bright pink T-shirts.

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