Strangers donate over $261K for Buffalo woman and man she helped during blizzard
People have come together to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for two Buffalo, New York, residents after a historic blizzard ravaged western New York over the Christmas holiday. The city received 51 inches of snow, a record for two days.
An online fundraiser for Sha'Kyra Aughtry has raised over $168,000 while another fundraiser for Joe White has raised over $94,000 in just three days.
Aughtry and White caught the attention of Facebook users after Aughtry went live on the social media platform, putting out a desperate plea on behalf of White on Christmas night.
"I currently have [an] older 64-year-old white man in my house. I found him yesterday. I heard him screaming for help on my street. I'm looking out the window, when I looked out the window, he was getting blown up and down the street. It was out of control," Aughtry said in her 15-minute live video.
Aughtry explained that her boyfriend had helped bring White into their home and that the older man had "big ice balls" and gangrene on his hands, panning the video camera to show White's injuries. She explained she had to cut the handles of a shopping bag White was carrying that had become stuck to his hands. She also said the older man had a disability and his condition appeared to be deteriorating so she was going on Facebook live to ask for assistance because she had exhausted other options that hadn't worked.
"He needs medical attention!" Aughtry pleaded. "I've had this man since 6:37 in the morning of the 24th."
Less than an hour after her first live post, Aughtry shared another live video, showing several men she referred to as good Samaritans helping her transport White to the Erie County Medical Center near her home.
"I got some guys just carrying him right now. I just want to show you all that I wasn't exaggerating. They came in, they plowed out my house. They getting him in [to a waiting truck]," Aughtry recounted in her second video, which ended with the group sending White off to hospital staff.
White's sister, Yvonne White, told "Good Morning America" she was able to visit her brother for the first time Thursday and saw him again Friday while he remains in intensive care at ECMC's burn unit. She said the condition of her brother's arms and fingers had not yet improved.
"It's just touch and go. It's stable. I mean, his hands are completely wrapped, his fingertips are still purple," she said. "But today he was in a pretty good mood."
Ray Barker, a professor and a program director at North Park Theatre in Buffalo, told "GMA" he is one of White's friends and said White has developmental disabilities. Barker also said he is White's manager at the theater, where he has worked as a custodian since 1980. He was able to talk to White over the phone Thursday.
Barker said nurses at the hospital told him White is cooperating with health care providers but that they don't know his outcome prognosis yet. "They tell me, worst case scenario he could have [an] amputated finger and if he makes through it, he might need a skin graft down the line," Barker said.
Barker added he and the theater staff are grateful Aughtry and her boyfriend were able to help White amid the storm when at times there was no visibility. At least 40 deaths were reported in western New York due to the blizzard, according to The Associated Press.
"I was surprised to hear that he'd gotten lost in the storm," Barker said, adding that he had told White on Dec. 22 not to report to work. "I was, of course, incredibly worried about the consequences of that with the frostbite and then very grateful that two people who didn't know him took the time to bring him into their house. If they hadn't done that, he may have had a very tragic end and that's very painful to think about."
Yvonne White, who said she lives across the city from her brother in South Buffalo, added that she also told her brother not to go out in the blizzard but she isn't sure when he ended up outside.
"He has no concept of the time frame," she said. "From his injuries and everything else, I think he probably fell asleep at the theater, woke up, and started walking home. Now, yesterday, he said that's what he did but as far as the time frame, nobody knows, as far as what specific day, nobody knows."
Despite her brother's serious injuries, Yvonne White said she's grateful for the "silver lining" in all of it and is overwhelmed by the love and support her family has received.
"We gained a sister with Sha'Kyra. We gained another brother with [her partner]. And now we have three small nephews," she said. "Sha'Kyra and I will be sisters no matter what."
Chris Dearing, who also works at North Park Theatre as a marketing director, confirmed to "GMA" he started the two fundraisers benefiting White and Aughtry.
"Sha'Kyra deserves all the money in the world," Dearing said via email, adding that he doesn't plan on ending the fundraiser anytime soon and that he has set up a trust in White's name to receive the donations for him.