WESTFIELD, N.Y. - He lives far, far away from the Southern Tier. Almost 100 miles away, to be exact.
For this man to travel to Brocton, Westfield, or any of the other communities in this region grieving the sudden loss of Damon Janes -- the Westfield-Brocton high school football player who died after playing a game last month -- his trip requires a long road drive and a full tank of gas.
But although this man, a native of Attica, New York, had never met Damon or his family, he is a parent himself and knows sadness when he sees it. Word traveled fast to Attica that the Westfield community and high school students had organized a benefit on Sunday at the Westfield Moose Lodge. The goal was simple: to raise money for Damon's family and cover the astronomical medical costs and other horrific things associated with a child's death. The benefit would include a chicken dinner, a raffle, and, most importantly for this man, an auction, which he decided might be the perfect way for him to help.
The man's first name is Louie, and he owns a bar in Attica called Louie's Lounge. On Saturday, he drove to Westfield and brought a car full of items to sell in the auction: a signed Jim Kelly jersey, a signed Danny Briere hat, a football autographed by Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed and Bruce Smith, a Tony Stewart model car and a signed Joe Montana jersey, which he received from a doctor named Kevin Ward, who tore it off the wall and offered it up for the benefit when he found out about the auction.
In all, he helped contribute thousands of dollars worth of merchandise, a small chunk of the $11,454 raised on Sunday. It will all eventually wind up in the hands of Damon Janes' family.
"We call him the Santa Claus of our benefit," said Adele Harrington, one of the event organizers.
He's not Santa Claus, but you might find his real name interesting.
His name is Louie Janes.
Yes, you read that correctly. Janes. His last name is the same as Damon's.
"No relation," Harrington said. "But a very special man who saw the promotion and contacted a member of our team, and just gave from the bottom of his heart."
Louie Janes, reached by phone at his bar on Sunday evening, said he did a double take when he saw Damon's last name in the news, but he said that is not the reason he donated.
"I just felt horrible. Because I'm a parent," Louie Janes said. "I don't know. It's just something that should have been done."
He was modest about his philanthropy, but many of the organizers at the Westfield Moose Lodge praised Louie for his generosity. Harrington also pointed out that her daughter, Mackenzi Habig, and many of her friends worked vigorously to organize the benefit for Damon. They also created a campaign to sell ribbons and bracelets. In total, their campaign has reached as far as Brazil and Germany, thanks to the power of the Internet.
"This really shows the two communities that have come together and formed as one," Habig said. "It's been great to see everybody get along and work together."
Habig, joined by friends Ashley Deponceau and Emma Mason in this 2 On Your Side interview, said she was overwhelmed by the support at the benefit on Sunday.
"Look at all these people together," Habig said. "Obviously, [Damon] did that. And that's a great thing for all of us."
Habig and her friends aren't done helping Damon Janes' family. They've spent the past few weeks determining how they can help in any and all capacities, but there's one thing they forgot to do.
They forgot to make a name for their group.
"I guess, Team Janes," they said. Ashley continued: "We've never really thought of a name, I guess. We're just more focused on getting it done, and getting it done for Damon Janes' family."
As for Louie Janes, he's not technically related to them, but he and the whole Attica community may as well be now.
"Attica's a very giving community," Janes said. "We raise a ton of money here."
And for that, the other Janes family is surely very grateful.