GREEN BAY — A gift in memory of a lifelong Packer fan gave surprise recipients a Lambeau Field experience they will never forget.1202packers1Diego Vazquez, left, and his brother Felipe stand outside Lambeau Field in Green Bay Jan. 9. The brothers, along with their uncle, attended the Packers vs. Chicago Bears football game Dec. 25 thanks to Rob Buchholz of Aurora, Ill. Felipe Vazquez is holding a canvas portrait of the Vince Lombardi statue, seen in the background. (Photo by Sam Lucero, The Compass, Green Bay)

Rob Buchholz, on behalf of his mother, Theresa, and late father, William Buchholz Sr., donated five tickets to the Catholic Foundation of the Diocese of Green Bay for the Christmas night game versus the Chicago Bears. Buchholz of Aurora, Ill., sent the tickets along with spending money for the game to the attention of Josh Diedrich, director of the Bishop’s Appeal. Buchholz said his parents’ devotion to the Diocese of Joliet served as inspiration.

“The church remains the foundation for all of our family,” said Buchholz, one of 11 children. “The Joliet Diocese is the umbrella and St. Michael Parish in Wheaton (Ill.) had a profound effect on every one of us. My mother and father were always strong supporters of the church. They made sure we all went to Catholic schools where we learned life lessons that have never left us.”

Several family members were interested in attending the game.

“All the hungry birds were clamoring to go, especially because the Packers were playing the Bears,” said Buchholz in a phone interview with The Compass. “It really was a blessing to find this solution. It was in a sense a selfish gift. It was a way of keeping all of us together on Christmas.”

Diedrich turned to Catholic Charities for distribution of the tickets. Members of two families, who have experienced recent struggles, received the gift. The game marked the first entry into Lambeau Field for Armando and Diana Sandoval, who have lived in Appleton the past 10 years.

Diana, who was diagnosed with cancer, never thought she would have the opportunity to see the Packers in person. She expressed her gratitude for the tickets and spending money through Jessica Sidon-De Leon, bilingual family strengthening case manager for Catholic Charities, who served as an interpreter.

“I never realized, watching the games on television, how many people are in the stadium,” said Diana. “I was in awe of all the people.”

Armando has ties to Chicago, so he was rooting for the Bears. He was not very happy with the outcome, according to his wife, who proudly displays the ticket stubs from the game.

“I was teasing him at the end of the game,” said Diana, who added that it was a thrill to see her favorite player Aaron Rodgers.

The couple, who will soon move to California, used the spending money for gas, parking and refreshments.

The game was also the first for Felipe Vazquez, 19, of Green Bay. He attended with his brother, Diego, 15, and an uncle. Sidon-De Leon said Felipe, a Packer fan, has dealt with physical disabilities since childhood. He continues rehabilitation. He suffered a recent setback when he was the victim of violent robbery. Much like the Sandovals, he was excited to go to a game, said Sidon-De Leon.

Buchholz said his father would be happy the tickets created special Christmas memories. William Sr. grew up in Green Bay. His family was among the original season ticket holders. He first started attending games at City Stadium.

William and Theresa met in her hometown of St. Louis where he was attending St. Mary’s University. They moved around before settling in Wheaton, but trips to Green Bay for games were a tradition.

“When my dad went to a game, he went to a game,” said Buchholz. “The older he got, the longer he would stay. He would sometimes leave on Wednesday. He made friends at the stadium. If my father left with extra tickets, he wouldn’t sell them. He would find friends. He would give the tickets away and say, ‘You can buy me a beer.’”

William died nearly four years ago. His love of the Packers was displayed at the funeral. He was buried in his favorite Packer tie. His seven sons all wore matching Packer ties in his honor.

The tickets will remain in the family forever said Buchholz. His mother is thankful that the Packer tradition continues.

“She gets the biggest kick out of this,” he said. “She sees the enjoyment for her family and it’s one of my dad’s legacies that he left behind – Green and Gold fever.”

Buchholz is vice president of operations for Buck Services, a cleaning and janitorial business in West Chicago, where two of his brothers also work. He said that the donation wasn’t about his family, but giving others an opportunity to enjoy the Packers live. He received a thank you letter from Diedrich, which he shared with relatives at a Christmas Eve gathering.

Members of the family will make the four-hour trip to Green Bay for Sunday’s playoff game versus the Giants. Another decision needs to be made, said Buchholz.

“We haven’t figured out yet who is going,” he said. “The Christmas game worked out great. There were so many people who wanted to go, but not enough tickets to please everyone. Our final decision pleased everyone.”