Thankfulness was the feeling in the air at the Love and Compassion Benefit award event at Francesca’s Banquets & Catering on Tuesday night.
Envision Event Management co-owners Suzanne and Shawn McGraw organized the March 25 benefit that raised $70,000 to be split among eight families who either lost loved ones, had family members injured or were displaced by the fire 64-year-old Kurt Myers set in his apartment building before opening fire at a barbershop in Mohawk and a mechanic’s shop in Herkimer in March. Myers was shot dead by police almost 24 hours later after he shot and killed an FBI dog while hiding in a vacant Herkimer building.
Suzanne McGraw said each family received a check for $8,000 and a $10,000 scholarship fund was established in the Herkimer and Central Valley school districts. One student from each district will receive a $500 scholarship the next ten years, she said.
“I’ve done a lot of benefits, but I never saw anything of this magnitude happen so fast. People were here to support other people and they wanted to give love and compassion,” said Ed View, benefit co-chairman. “It’s a case of being able to help everyone from the Mohawk Valley and there’s nothing like the feeling of helping others.”
“I want to thank everybody from the bottom of my heart for everything they have done, said John Seymour, one of two survivors in the March shooting spree in Mohawk. “The community here has been so nice to us and it really helps.”
Brian Stefka, the eldest son of Thomas Stefka, one of two men Myers shot and killed at Gaffey’s Fast Lube in Herkimer, attended Tuesday’s event on his family’s behalf.
“I want to thank everyone in the community for all the love and support they’ve given our family at this time,” he said.
“What the community has done for us is incredible and we want the community to know we appreciate their support,” said Jolene Ransear, wife of the late Michael Ransear, a retired state correction officer who was killed at John’s Barbershop in Mohawk.
Justin Price, now a resident of Ilion, was displaced by the fire Myers set.
He said he was thankful for all those who came together to help everyone affected.
“We found out we had friends we didn’t know we had,” Price said.
Mohawk resident Vicki Cimo’s father, Dan Haslauer, was seriously injured in the shooting, and she said the money would go to help with medical expenses.
“It’s a great thing to see the community come together in this awful time of tragedy,” she said. “It makes you realize the sun can still shine through the rain.”
Contributing: More Content Now