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7 of the best Buffalo Strong stories of 2021 to inspire and encourage

The group Small Town Big Minds is on a mission to change their community
Posted at 6:00 PM, Dec 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-22 18:00:34-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Many Western New Yorkers faced challenges in 2021 as our community perseveres through the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the year, 7 Eyewitness News has been proud to shine a light on people, businesses and organizations offering moments of hope and inspiration. These good neighbors proved we are Buffalo Strong.

Despite closing, local restaurant donates hundreds of free meals
The pandemic has had an impact on many businesses and in Lancaster it led to the closure of Aunt Robin's Diner. The diner, which was owned by Robin Finsterbach for seven years, donated thousands of free meals to the community over the years and decided to donate one last time before its official closure. The diner gave away more than 350 spaghetti dinners, all for free, before it closed. "I just hope that we touched them like they did us for the last seven years," Finsterbach said in August.

Hospital workers help Western New York couple get married while in ICU
Buffalo police detective Jim Kaska and Buffalo police captain Melinda Jones planned on getting married on February 11 as it marked the 60th wedding anniversary for Kaska's parents. While Kaska and Jones had all of their wedding arrangements planned, Kaska's heart was failing and needed a transplant. The couple had to cancel their wedding ceremony in order to focus on getting treated, but the cardiac team at Strong Memorial Hospital stepped in to allow them to have their special moment. Kaska and Jones exchanged vows on February 6 in the ICU. “I can’t thank the people here enough. In 20 hours, they made our wedding. It’s remarkable because I’ve only been on this unit two days. It shows the level of care. I think I’m in good hands," Kaska said in February.

Four young men build ice rink for Dunkirk community
Finding needs in the community and making a change. That’s what the group Small Town Big minds is all about. Founded by Raul Rosado, Chris Rodriguez, Evon Hernandez and AJ Morales, the group hosts a local podcast and works on projects to improve their hometown. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, there were not as many opportunities to skate in the area. So the group hosted a kickball tournament and started a GoFundMe page until they had enough money to build an ice rink all by themselves on East Tenney Street in January. “Instead of waiting for someone else to change our community for us, we started making it happen,” Rodriguez said in February.

"The lawn kid" looks to mow 50 veteran lawns in honor of his grandfather
Nathan Adams, also known as "The Lawn Kid" launched an upstart lawn care business and decided to use the business to give back. In June, Adams was looking to mow 50 veteran lawns for free in honor of his grandfather, Fred Adams. Fred was a proud Army veteran and according to Nathan's mom, he was someone Nathan idolized. "He wanted to find a way to honor my dad and make him proud and this is his way of saying thank you to the veterans," Angel Adams, Nathan's mom, said in June.

Three young men on a mission to clean the streets of Buffalo
Darius Foster, Tayvion Nelson and Hassen Moody are on a mission to clean the streets in the City of Buffalo. We spoke with the group in October and they had been cleaning the streets as the "14 Clean Team," for about a month at that point and they're looking for the City of Good Neighbors to join them and support their journey. “Buffalo is the underdog right now and I love rooting for the underdog. We just want to do our part and show people like, yo, we gotta take care of our community," Foster said in October.

Here at WKBW we have worked to shine a light on people, businesses and organizations offering moments of hope and inspiration who embody what it means to be "Buffalo Strong." Throughout the year we have picked Buffalo Strong initiatives and highlighted organizations making a positive impact within those initiatives. Two of those initiatives are described below.

Buffalo Strong: Pride
As part of the Buffalo Strong: Pride initiative we highlighted GLYS WNY, Inc., an organization the provides support and programming for LGBTQ+ youth in Western New York. You can find out more about GLYS WNY's services and how you can get involved here. As part of the initiative, we profiled a Williamsville South student about the support and resources GLYS WNY provides. Buffalo Strong Pride Edition shirts were available throughout June and a portion of the proceeds were donated to GLYS WNY. A Buffalo Strong Pride Bi(athlon) was also held that raised over $2,500 for GLYS WNY. In addition, a Buffalo Strong conversation was held.

Buffalo Strong: Honor, Respect, Perseverance
As part of the Buffalo Strong: Honor, Respect, Perseverance initiative we highlighted WNY Heroes Inc., an organization that provides immediate financial assistance and critical life sustaining support to veterans and their families. You can find out more about what they do and how you can help here. As part of the initiative, we profiled how veterans are helping veterans within the organization. Joined a group of veterans when they were honored as Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight celebrated first trip in two years and highlighted the Veterans Post Restoration fund. Special edition Buffalo Strong shirts were also sold for this initiative, with a portion of the proceeds donated to WNY Heroes Inc. In addition, a Buffalo Strong conversation was held.