BUFFALO - The balloons, the "Welcome Home" signs, the red-white-and-blue banners, the pizza and the pop were nice.
But the people made the difference for Adam Page and Paul Schaus.
After helping the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey team capture a second consecutive gold medal in Sochi this weekend, Page and Schaus arrived at the Buffalo airport just after 6 p.m. on Monday from a connecting flight in Washington D.C. They figured they'd have a few fans here— but nobody told them they'd encounter a full-out surprise party, complete with more than 100 friends and family, all cheering at the top of their lungs as they exited the terminal gate.
"To have a big welcome home like this," Page said, "is a pretty cool feeling."
Kathy Flemming, the executive director of the InvisionHealth Foundation, intentionally kept the party a bit of a secret. Her foundation used a grant to help pay for the sled hockey team's trip to Sochi, and she certainly got her money's worth.
The U.S. team became the first sled hockey team in the history of the Paralympics to win consecutive gold medals after also claiming one in Vancouver in the 2010 games.
"It was just incredible to see a group of young men who've realized their dream," Flemming said. "It was so exciting."
Page, a Lancaster native, played on the 2010 team. But for Schaus, a Buffalo native, these games marked his first Paralympics.
"To see Western New York come together and support us, I'm just really proud to have the honor to bring this gold medal back to my hometown," Schaus said.
With two gold medals under his belt, Page can now go for the trifecta in 2018.
He and Schaus both said they'll take a few weeks to rest and collect themselves before jumping back into the grind-- they deserve at least that much.
"These guys are athletes, not disabled people out on the ice," said Norm Page, Adam's father. "It's incredible to have people seeing that now."