A simple event at a Grand Prairie recreation center held special meaning as it carried on a fallen officer’s legacy.
Several groups helped organize a pizza party in honor of a fallen Grand Prairie officer who sparked the idea himself.
A.J. Castaneda died June 7 after being hit by a driver who lost control of their car. He was on traffic enforcement duty at the time.
After Officer Castaneda's death earlier this month, stories quickly spread about the selfless acts he did during his time as an officer. One of those was frequently bringing food to the kids in this community where he grew up.
At the Dalworth Rec Center on Thursday, it was Dinner Party night. Fewer things get the kids away from the court quicker than the scent of pizza. The servers were a pair of Grand Prairie's finest who know the simple interactions go a long way.
“We do so much more with rapport than we ever do with authority,” with Grand Prairie Officer Gerald Hodges.
Few knew that better than Officer Castaneda who stood in the same spot serving food many times before. He’s among the reasons that dinner party night exists.
Officer Castaneda grew up in the Dalworth community. Monte Whetstone, the recreation and event supervisor, says when he started working at the center in 2014, Castaneda came to him with an idea.
“Here walks in AJ Castaneda. And first thing pretty much after a few weeks he wanted to bring food for the kids,” Whetstone recalled. “So I was like, ‘Ok cool.’”
But Castaneda didn't just do it once. He returned time and time again and bought meals with his own money until June 7 when a driver lost control and struck him while running radar on the George Bush Turnpike.
“The day of the funeral, I looked at my cell phone, and he had messaged me on May 25,” Whetstone said. “And I just went through my text messages and saw everything was pretty much, ‘I'm bringing food. I'm bringing food.’ It was always what he wanted to do.”
Now, Dinner Party will always be part of the Dalworth Rec Center and the kids it serves. It was a simple gesture that's now contagious.
A fundraiser was also held for Officer Castaneda at a nearby Whataburger as the community does its best to honor his service. Snuffer’s restaurants in the area also planned to donate part of their sales to benefit officer Castaneda’s family.