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Family hopes to triple memorial scholarship funds


Aaron Zarate

A Mukilteo family is looking for a new way to keep giving in memory of the late Aaron Zarate.

After eight years holding garage sales to benefit the Aaron Zarate Memorial Scholarship, his family is searching for a new fundraiser.

The Zarates raised $4,300 during this year’s Great Mukilteo Garage Sale, but they want to raise more so that they can give even more.

“We want to figure out something that will be able to benefit more kids and become larger as a community, and profit wise as well, so we can give more scholarships,” said Nathan Zarate, Aaron’s youngest brother.

Aaron Zarate died in a motorcycle crash in 2006. He was 22. He apparently failed to negotiate a turn and hit a curb on Hardeson Road in Everett. A memorial is still there.

Devastated by their loss, the family looked for a way to honor his memory and love.

The Zarates set up a scholarship in Aaron’s name for deserving students in the Mukilteo School District. The whole family fundraises for the scholarships and reads through the applications.

“It really originates from our love for Aaron and the love he had for us,” said Lisa Zarate, Aaron’s mom, through tears. “The bottom line is he’s gone, but the love we had for him is not.

“We have this love in our hearts that we have to keep giving.”

Every year, though, Aaron’s mom, Lisa, and dad, Joe, his brothers, Jacob, Matthew and Nathan and cousin Raul are torn over whom to award their scholarships.

Last year, the family awarded 10 $500 scholarships, when the average is five per year. (They also awarded a special Baller on a Budget Award, another $500, to one of the 10.) Doubling the winners was great, but in their eyes, it still wasn’t good enough.

“We wish we could help them all,” Joe Zarate said. “When you have 30-40 applications, it’s hard not to pick people, because you want to help them all.”

The Zarates have awarded more than 40 college scholarships, not including this year’s winners, as well as numerous high school scholarships to Mukilteo students.

The first year they held a garage sale, the family raised $4,500. Donations filled their garage, the shed, the driveway and the patio.

Their fundraising momentum has kept up, year after year. Their most profitable garage sale raised $6,200. That’s mostly from selling hot dogs – Joe mans the grill – and donated stuff.

“With that said, so many people come by and say, ‘Here’s an extra couple bucks’ or ‘Here’s $200,’ or ‘Keep the change,’” Lisa Zarate said. “It’s unbelievable.”

Though this year’s garage sale was their last, the Zarates want the community to know just how much they appreciate the support they’ve received.

“Without them, without their donations, without their generosity and their time spent shopping at our garage sale, this scholarship wouldn’t be possible,” Nathan Zarate said. “Without people willing to help us, we would be nothing.”

What’s the new fundraiser? The Zarates don’t know yet. They would like suggestions. Email

Suggestions they’ve already received include a jewelry sale, Keep the Change fundraiser, dinner and auction, touch or flag football tournament, and the selling of Aaron’s Stars, to post up in store windows.

The Zarates have the goal of raising $10,000 to $20,000 with the new fundraiser.

“There is so much need out there, and people like to help other people,” Lisa Zarate said. “I think our community wants our youth to have a better, brighter future. We can help with that, if they help us.”

Aaron graduated from Mariner High School in 2003 and attended Edmonds Community College. His favorite sports were football and boxing. He had two jobs.

He worked with his father in the family electrical business, Dad'z Electric, since the age of 13, and also at Ivar’s in Mukilteo. His family said he was a hard worker, compassionate, dedicated and ambitious.

The Zarate family, circa 2003: (clockwise) Joe, Matthew, Jacob, Nathan, Aaron and (center) Lisa. Raul not pictured.

The Aaron Zarate Memorial Scholarship is for middle school and high school students. Seniors receive a $500 scholarship for college; eighth graders are given about $90 to cover ASB and yearbook costs.

Seniors must apply for the scholarship, but eighth graders are nominated by their teachers. Scholarship winners are chosen because they exemplify Aaron’s spirit and character.

“We call it ‘Aaron’s scholarship,’ but it’s more than that,” Lisa Zarate said. “It’s a community scholarship that has come together because a family loved and missed Aaron so much.”

The Zarates are reading applications for this year’s scholarships now. See the winners soon at


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