Heart on a Sleeve: 26 Shirts helps WNY families in need

BUFFALO, N.Y.- If you could make a difference in someone else's life, what would you do?

Would you help a friend? A neighbor? What about a complete stranger, just because it was the right thing to do?


In West Seneca, a normal Saturday afternoon in the Mett household includes video games and smiles with missing teeth. Distractions.

Six months ago, 9-year old Anna Mett was diagnosed with leukemia.

Four months into her treatment, Anna is undergoing chemotherapy, but the cancer has not diminished her spirit.

"She's always smiling,' says Denise Mett, Anna's mother. "She could be sicker than a dog and getting wheeled down for her spinal tap, and she's smiling at all the doctors."

And, the Mett's mindset has wheels of its own.

"You have to keep going. You have to treasure every moment you have."


In Tonawanda, the Murphy family was forever changed in one moment.

Back in August, 15-year old Jacob Murphy was riding his bike on Niagara Falls Boulevard, when he was struck by an SUV.

Jacob fractured his skull and suffered severe brain injuries, putting him in the I-C-U for 34 days. For the last three and a half months, Jacob has received treatment at the Children's Institute of Pittsburgh.

He has since returned to his family in Western New York but still has a long road ahead.


In Orchard Park, the Millen's try not to think about the future.

Just a few months ago, they found out their son, John Austin, developed a terminal, cancerous brain stem tumor.

"I think he knows that we're all scared," say Dawn Millen, John's mother. "I think he knows that something's different. I think he knows that his body's changing. But, I don't think he knows that he's dying."

"These days, he really likes his cars movies," recalls Chad Millen, John's father. "He really likes his car stories."

"It's hard to imagine without him. And, the prognosis is so grim, it's really very difficult to think about."


The Mett's, Millen's and Murphy's are three unique families with three unique stories. But, what makes this whole story unique, is the common thread they all share.


T-shirts. Lots of t-shirts.

Local philanthropist Del Reid has established a new charitable initiative called 26 Shirts.

He takes unique Buffalo sports designs and puts them on t-shirts.

"We sell a shirt for a two-week period and all the shirts that are sold during that time go to a family in need," Del explains.

A different t-shirt and a different cause, every two weeks, totaling 26 shirts in one year.

"It's pretty cool that everyone's helping pitch in on the t-shirts," says Anna Mett.

Dawn Millen remembers, "It was one of those amazing, wonderful things that happens really fast, but you don't expect. Again, a total stranger, coming from thin air, that says 'Hi, I want to help'."

Del has a family of his own, but that hasn't prevented him from helping dozens of others.

"It just seems like the natural thing to do. You get one life. You're given one life on this Earth. And, if you don't make the most of it, if you're not doing it to help others who are in a worse situation, you're wasting your life. That's how I feel"

So, if you could make a difference in someone else's life... What are you waiting for?


For more information on 26 Shirts, visit their website at 26Shirts.com. There, you can learn how the initiative was born, how to be apart of the effort and other ways you can help. Of course, you can also purchase the current shirt and/or donate to a specific family in need.

Click here to follow Jonah on Twitter: @JonahJavad

Click here to follow 26 Shirts on Twitter: @26Shirts


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