BUFFALO, N.Y. – The City of Good Neighbors is showing its support for Officer Craig Lehner’s family and the Buffalo Police Department with several acts of kindness.
In a show of solidarity, friends and strangers alike have started lighting their front porches blue, matching several city buildings. At a fire prevention open house Wednesday night, firefighters and visiting families held a moment of silence. Another group is planning a blue light vigil at LaSalle Park on Thursday evening.
But one project that’s quickly picking up speed is a blue pumpkin campaign to raise money for Officer Lehner’s family.
"This is about remembering Craig, his family, and obviously the family of the Buffalo Police Department, who are really hurting over this,” said Chris Kreiger, founder of Western New York Heroes, Inc.
WNY Heroes is helping to put this idea into motion by working with the Great Pumpkin Farm in Clarence, Home Depot, and several local businesses who have donated resources.
For Kreiger, the loss of Lehner is personal. They served together overseas, and Kreiger watched Lehner go from serving his country to serving his community.
“He was always a jokester, always laughing. Somebody you could always count on to have your back,” Kreiger said. "We're very excited to get out there and raise as much love and awareness for Craig and the Buffalo Police Department.”
Panek Farms in Albion also donated a truckload of pumpkins to the effort. Those pumpkins were taken to a South Buffalo home, where volunteers struggled to keep up with the demand for blue pumpkins Wednesday night.
Robert Gotts, who also served in the military with Lehner, used his pickup truck to get the pumpkins. Gotts said Lehner would have been proud of this.
"He was just a great guy, you know? He'd brighten the room. He's just one of those people that had—he was just magnetic. Everyone was drawn to him,” Gotts said.
The South Buffalo pumpkins and the ones at the Great Pumpkin Farm are all part of the same collaborative effort.
The blue pumpkins will be available at the Great Pumpkin Farm this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thurman Thomas will make an appearance to greet visitors. There’s no specific price for the pumpkins; Kreiger said the idea is to give out the pumpkins in an exchange for any donation amount that the public is comfortable giving.
All of the money raised will go directly to Lehner’s family.
Police are still in talks with Lehner’s family about their needs before they announce any fundraisers themselves.