Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is helping two area families that are attempting to rebuild after losing everything in separate fires this year feel at home for the holidays. Thanks to a generous donation through the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, Fitzpatrick and his family have provided toys for the children, computers for school, furniture and much more to help these families on the road to recovery.
"This night means more to me than I can express in words," said the father of one of the families. "There was a time when our family was going through a very difficult time. We really had nowhere to go. Then the Red Cross and the United Way got involved."
The Fitzpatrick family had the opportunity to meet the recipients of their generosity and personally deliver some of the gifts during a private meeting Friday evening at the Administrative Headquarters of the American Red Cross, Serving Erie & Niagara Counties. Due to its policy of confidentiality, the Red Cross is keeping the recipients of these gifts anonymous.
"This was great for me and my family to come out and help a few families who have been subject of unfortunate events," said Fitzpatrick. "Losing a home in a fire is obviously not an easy thing – especially around the holidays. It's great for our family to come and help them and meet the families and spread the feeling of giving around Christmas time."
The families, one from Buffalo and another currently residing in North Tonawanda, have been receiving assistance from the American Red Cross since their respective disasters. Last year, 762 people in Erie and Niagara Counties received food, clothing, shelter and support from the Red Cross following a fire. All assistance is free, and the Red Cross relies on the generosity of the American public to provide these vital services in the community.
"We are so thankful that Ryan Fitzpatrick and his family have chosen to help these families that were touched by disaster this year," said Nancy Blaschak, Executive Director of the American Red Cross, Serving Erie & Niagara Counties. "But these are just two of the hundreds of families that come through our doors seeking assistance throughout the year. Through the Red Cross Holiday Giving Catalog, consumers can help us turn heartbreak into hope, and feel good about themselves by giving a gift that means something this holiday season."
The father of one of the families was very touched by the efforts of Fitzpatrick and his family.
"To have the opportunity to meet Ryan and receive assistance from him is amazing," he said. "I was star-struck. But Ryan is really down-to-earth – so friendly, so caring. He brought his family – including his kids and wife. His kids passed out gifts to my kids. They talked with us. It was a great experience. He's a hero – at least to me he is.
"He brought my family closer together when I thought my kids were not going to have a Christmas and they were not going to have nice things in their house anymore. The other day the Red Cross and United Way came over with a truck full of appliances. I was told grown men don't cry, but I was in tears. This has truly been a tremendous holiday."