Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ryan Fitzpatrick Scores Big For Two Local Families

As a certified sports junkie, I can tell you that it's getting harder and harder to be a fan these days.  It seems there's more arrests, lawsuits and big money wheeling and dealing in the sports pages than there are scores.  But for every negative story involving athletes, there's many more positive ones that don't get nearly as much attention, and we're lucky to have many of the good ones playing right here in Western New York.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and his wife played Santa Claus to two families who lost everything in separate fires in November of this year.  Even though his beard is brown and not white, "FitzMagic" provided a little more to these families than Saint Nick usually leaves under the tree.  Thanks to a generous donation through the United Way, the Fitzpatrick's have completely stocked these families new homes with furniture, TVs, computers for school, household supplies, blankets and, of course, toys.  Over coffee and donuts generously donated by Tim Horton's, the families got to met their "Secret Santa" at our Administrative Headquarters on Delaware Avenue Friday evening, as the Fitzpatrick's took time out of their busy schedule to personally deliver just some of the holiday cheer their support made possible.

The stories of these families, like so many that come through our doors throughout the year, are heartbreaking.  But to see the looks on their faces when they met the star quarterback and saw what he did for them really made me understand what the holiday spirit is all about, and every one of you that has ever donated, volunteered or supported the Red Cross in any way should know that you help create those same feelings all year round.

With seven straight losses heading into this afternoon's game against the Broncos, it's easy to wonder if there's been anything positive to come out of this 2011 Bills season.  But no matter what the results are on the field, Ryan Fitzpatrick has shown us he is definitely someone we can all root for!

Monday, December 19, 2011

We need your holiday spirit all year round!

This morning, I woke up to a email request from one of the talented reporters at a local TV station, asking about the Red Cross response to an early-morning fire on Clay Street in Buffalo.  In responding to his request, I discovered three separate cases had been referred to our emergency services department, and as of this afternoon we are providing for the immediate emergency needs of a family of five.  I also learned that the NFTA helped to keep people warm at the scene of the fire, then provided those affected with bus transportation to our Delaware Avenue headquarters to begin working on their recovery plan.  A nice holiday story of neighbors helping neighbors.

And that's what got me thinking. The original media request mentioned how these families had "lost everything less than a week before Christmas."  I think everyone's natural reaction, including mine, is to feel a little extra touch of sadness when thinking about those children that may not have any presents under the tree this year because of this fire.  But is their loss really any greater than that of the family who suffered a similar disaster in September?  They also suddenly found themselves with no place to live, no clothes to wear to work, and nothing to play with after school.

Red Cross file photo
Here in Erie and Niagara Counties, the Red Cross responds to nearly 400 disasters every year--an average of more than one per day.  Spring, summer, winter or fall, the 762 people that turned to us for help after a fire last year all suffered some sort of loss, and we provided each of them with the same level of services to help turn their heartbreak into hope.  Nationally, the American Red Cross opened 137 large-scale relief operations in 2011, serving more than 6.7 million meals and snacks and providing over 130,000 overnight shelter stays.

It's the holiday spirit that makes us all feel even more sympathy when a disaster hits someone this time of year, and moves many of us to support charitable organizations during this "season of giving."   But disaster knows no season, and it's important that we all carry that spirit of giving with us year-round, so we can help our neighbors in need 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.