"When the Cubs came, they added their own special touch to it," said Orian, one of the students. "It was the Cubs who came to help paint and that meant something. We knew that someone was watching out for us and was there with us in the community."
The Cubs kept on giving. Some of the students were able to go to a game this summer and Jackson met with them again and called them by name, including another student, Quran.
"It was huge for [Quran] -- and the entire staff was like, 'I can't believe he remembered his name,'" said Casals principal Kristie Langbehn, who recalls the huge grin on the student's face.
"The nice thing about what happened is that it laid the foundation for a really strong partnership with the Cubs," Langbehn said. "Sometimes people want to rush in and do something and then you never hear from them again. The nice thing with this is the Cubs came in and continued to seek out opportunities for our students."
The January caravan stop was part of Cubs Charities' year-long "100 Gifts of Service," linked to Wrigley Field's 100-year anniversary. Helping Casals was one of the community service projects.
"It's been 100 days plus," Langbehn said. "It's the gift that keeps on giving for us. It was just my kids having opportunities. They just need opportunities, like other kids might get on the North Side or the suburbs."
At the end of that January visit, Orian spoke to the Cubs contingent to thank them, and mentioned he hopes to be president some day. Laura Ricketts, who is chairman of the board of Cubs Charities, somehow arranged for the 14-year-old to meet with Obama when he was in Chicago in June for a fundraiser.
Ricketts even got Obama to autograph a baseball for Orian, who shared it with the Casals baseball team.
"[The Cubs] came here, of all places," Orian said. "It made us feel special."
In addition to sprucing up the facilities, Cubs wives delivered backpacks and book bags to the school. The Cubs have helped boost morale at Casals.
"For them, to see somebody who notices me for the good that I'm doing, and not just what we read about and what we see on TV, it's amazing," Langbehn said. "It reinforces, 'If I do what's right, usually right happens.' It's important for the kids to understand that."
It's a gift.