NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. -- Each Monday in our City Shapers segment, we highlight someone who is doing something to make Western New York a better place.
This week, 2 On Your Side's Kelly Dudzik introduces us to a Niagara Falls man who makes sure hundreds of children go back to school with the supplies they need.
Sanquin Starks is the Director of Youth Services for the City of Niagara Falls, but in his free time, he organizes Unity Day.
"What inspires you to do what you do?" asked Dudzik.
"When you're born and raised from a place, you know everybody. So, everybody in the city I pretty much know. So just that alone, it just makes you want to give back," says Starks.
Starks came up with the idea with his famous brother and cousin - James Starks and Jonny Flynn.
"It started literally with a conversation in our kitchen and, at the time, I was in Green Bay, Wisconsin. My brother, me and my brother, we wanted to just do a community giveback. And I had this idea where, because we also had another cousin, Jonny Flynn, and he went and played in the NBA for a while. And I said, you know what, we'd probably get a lot of people that will want to come out and interact with just you two. And we said we should do that, but as we're doing that, let's give back a bunch of stuff," says Starks.
So, three years ago, they went out and got food and drinks and started a basketball tournament and a football camp at Legends Park.
That first year, they put up most of the money themselves.
"And from there, it just continued to grow with the community involvement and now the community pretty much puts it on," says Starks.
"How many people showed up this year?" asked Dudzik.
"We had I would say between a thousand to 1200 people come out," says Starks.
Starks, the oldest of seven, says as you grow older, you learn to appreciate what you have.
"And you realize it's so much easier to do things with a team than to be by yourself. And that's kind of the same thing with Unity Day," he says. "It's just something we have in our heart to do."
As word got out, more and more people stepped up to help with their time and money. Community members have also donated hundreds of book bags, school supplies, and clothes to help kids start the school year off right.
"I see these same kids two hours after Unity Day. I see them down at the stores and at the mall, and they're still like hey, Quin, we had fun, you know, thanks for the sneakers, thanks for this, thanks for that, I'm like no problem. And that kind of stuff sticks with you all the way until the next event. Keeps me going. I just want to drive and continue to make the event better and better," says Starks.
Starks hopes that one day when he can no longer organize Unity Day, one of those kids picks up right where he left off. If you are interested in helping him organize Unity Day 2018, you can contact him on Facebook.
If you would like to nominate someone you know to be a City Shaper, just email Kelly Dudzik.
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