Tag Archive | fairport football

Fairport Community Rallies around Coach. My Interview with Gary Brown.

A Few posts back, I wrote about my wondering around Fairport, asking random people in the village about which local folks would make a good story and my brother calling me crazy for doing so. Well, if I didn’t wander around aimlessly, I wouldn’t have found a flyer about a golf benefit for Coach Gary Brown. And I wouldn’t have had the honor and the opportunity to meet this wonderful and brave family facing an incurable disease. Fairport Football coach Gary Brown, center, with his family, from left, Mackenzie, 17; Mike, 12; Max, 19; and his wife, Mary, at their Fairport home. Community support helped build the handicapped-accessible porch.

garybrownFairport Football coach Gary Brown, center, with his family, from left, Mackenzie, 17; Mike, 12; Max, 19; and his wife, Mary, at their Fairport home. Community support helped build the handicapped-accessible porch. / KATE MELTON
Written by
Stacy Gittleman

Get to know Gary Brown

Profession: Field manager at RG&E.
Family: Wife of 21 years, Mary. Sons Max, 19; Mackenzie, 17; and Michael, 12. Mother-in-law, Rita Clark.
Hobbies: Boating, fishing, hunting.
Brown’s advice for living every day:Make someone laugh. Give 110 percent to family and community. Banish the phrase “I can’t.”
What: 15th annual Fairport Football Alumni Association “Gary Brown Red Raider” Golf Classic.
When: 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 9.
Where: Victor Hills Golf Club, 1450 Brace Rd, Victor.
Information: Sponsorships $100. Portions of the proceeds will go to the Gary Brown Foundation for MSA Inc. For sponsorship opportunities and more information, contact Don Santini at (585) 223-1274.

When Gary “Brownie” Brown played center for the Fairport Raiders in the 1970s, his coach Don Santini took notice of how his enthusiasm and determination would unite the team at game time.

Santini again drew upon these traits decades later when he asked the 1977 Fairport High School graduate back to help coach the team as a volunteer.

In 2003, Brown, a field manager for RG&E, completed the New York State High School Coaching Certification program and joined the coaching team for the Raiders.

Santini, who retired from coaching after leading the Raiders from 1975-92, describes Brown as “a doer.”

When Santini’s widowed sister-in-law needed her house painted, Brown organized a crew of friends and students to get the job done. Brown in 2007 started an alumni fundraiser to sell bricks to create a “Walk of Pride” walkway on campus to benefit the football team and raise scholarship money for Fairport graduates.

For seven seasons, Brown taught students what it takes to be successful on the field. He helped them build speed, coordination and balance.

But starting in 2009, Brown noticed some troubling symptoms in his own physical condition.

He often felt dizzy and had trouble keeping his own balance. He could not run as fast as he did in previous years.

After tests and doctors’ visits that came up empty and just days after his oldest son Max graduated Fairport High School in June 2011, Brown was diagnosed by a doctor in Michigan with a rare, degenerative disease called Multiple System Atrophy, or MSA.

MSA is a progressive and incurable neurological disorder that impairs the body’s involuntary (autonomic) functions, including blood pressure, heart rate, bladder function and digestion. The Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms, such as slowness of movement, muscle rigidity and poor balance, affects 15 out of 100,000 people nationwide.

“This has been very stressful on all of us,” Brown said in slurred speech — another symptom of the disease. He noted that his wife, Mary, and sons attend weekly counseling sessions with a therapist. There is also a counselor available to Max as he attends classes at State University College at Cortland.

Through therapy, the Browns have come to a realization that they can’t go through this alone. But with the outpouring of the Fairport community, they won’t have to.

In January, Santini and other close friends of Brown established the nonprofit Gary Brown Foundation for MSA. Money from the foundation will be used to help the family with medical and counseling costs, raise awareness about the disease and offer support to others in Rochester struck by this disease. So far, just two others with MSA in the Rochester area have contacted the foundation.

The first fundraiser held back in January drew 900 Brown fans out to roast the coach and bid on silent auction items. It raised $58,000. The next, a golf tournament sponsored by the Fairport Football Alumni Association, will be held 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 9, at Victor Hills Golf Club, 1450 Brace Road, Victor. In addition to funding athletic scholarships at Fairport High School, a “significant portion” of the money raised will benefit the Brown Foundation, said Santini.

Funds from this foundation have enabled Brown to enjoy the company of family and friends on a porch with a handicapped-accessible ramp.

Brown thanks local contractors like Westwood Development for donating their labor to build the porch as well as a handicapped-accessible bathroom and bedroom on the ground floor of their house. Bristol’s Garden Center also donated materials for landscaping.

The foundation also paid for a golf cart that Brown uses to drive to the school to watch football practices and games. Though he is no longer coaching, Santini said his reputation still carries on and he gets a warm welcome from the kids.

“Fairport Raiders past and present, and even little siblings not yet in high school, will come over to shake Brown’s hand,” said Santini.

Mary, who describes herself as a “Buffalo girl,” can understand why people like her husband want to spend all their lives in Fairport. She has been “blown away” at the support the community has bestowed upon her family.

“If I pick up the phone to one person for help, I get 10 responses,” she said, referring to her neighbors who have prepared meals for nearly a year and helped care for their sons while Brown travels to Michigan for treatments.

The prognosis is grim. Doctors have given Brown a life expectancy of four years. But Brown knows he will be in good hands. In 2007, Mary received her master’s in nurse practitioning at the University ofRochester, long before Brown became ill.

“You know what (the late) Steve Jobs said, how you can only connect the dots in life when you are looking backwards? I truly believe that. I truly believe there are no coincidences in this life.”

I’m not Crazy, I’m Just Trying to Find Stories!

I’ve had lots of free time on my hands this month as my kids are all (I mean all three!) away at summer camp and my husband, well, he still has to work so we can eat and have a roof over our heads.

Me, I’ve had time to explore and actually wander around the outlying towns I cover instead of just “visit” the towns on the Internet through municipal webpages.

Sure, there is lots of information about events, festivals  and programs online, but there is no substitute for hitting the pavement and asking around.

On such a visit to Fairport, I took a break, sat by the Erie Canal and called my brother in New Jersey.

He asked what I was up to.

“Oh, I need to write a profile story about a person from a town I really know very few people, so I’m walking around this cute little village called Fairport. I’m  stopping into the library and local shops and saying hello and asking people for ideas.”

He paused. He chuckled. Then he began to speak. When my brother speaks, he has no filter. At least not  with his sister.

“You’re going around ASKING random people if they have ideas for you? You know who does that? CRAZY PEOPLE!!”

Perhaps. Perhaps the unstructured time of summer has driven me mad. But just  wandering around I gathered the following for story ideas:

  • A beauty shop that carries only sustainable products and is one of the only salons in the country that has a state of the art ventilation system that is constantly bringing in fresh air to protect the health of clients and employees. They also collect food for the local food pantry and portions of their profits go to a well project in Uganda.
  • An upcoming music festival
  • An ice cream shop owned by a Xerox manager called the Moonlight Creamery that has special wine-food-ice cream pairing events and crazy flavors like oatmeal ice cream.
  • Most of all, I found a golf fund-raiser to raise money for a Fairport football coach battling a degenerative neuro muscular disease. The minute I saw it, I said, THAT’s my story.

But, I can’t wander around all the time, people. I need your help.

I need for you to tell me about great little shops on the east side of Rochester that have great shop owners with interesting lives.

I need to know what organizations you’re giving your time to and what events that are coming up that go with your cause.

I need to know about the issues in your town you care about, how you are getting involved and how others can do the same.

Fall is coming. I’m nearing the end of my story idea rope and I can’t wander around the streets in the cold of February. Send me your best ideas NOW!

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