A Colonie family is getting some “huge” help from an unexpected source.
The head of the family, a volunteer firefighter, died suddenly last month - and efforts to help raise money to help his widow and two kids have caught the attention of someone in a position to make a difference.
36-year-old Donnie Anderson died suddenly a few weeks ago in the house he grew up in and was raising his family in.
His friends were trying to help his widow raise money to make needed repairs to it, which is how Billy Fuccillo heard about their story.
“In a nutshell, he was a really good guy,” says Caryn Anderson.
Caryn Anderson talks about her husband Donnie - the man she met 17 years ago at the Midway Fire Department and was married to for 12 - until last month.
“Father's Day morning, I was getting ready to go to church and I was downstairs waking him up,” says Caryn. “I was getting ready. It was just any typical day and next thing I know I hear him thud on the floor.”
Her 36-year-old husband gone, Caryn was left alone to raise a 10-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter - who needs to go to Rochester every few months for special treatment for severe scoliosis - and left with a house in need of major repairs to the roof, windows and fence.
Caryn says, “Even though he tried to fix certain things, he was not handy around the house. He was not a carpenter.”
That's where Donnie's friend and co-worker Robert Sammons came in.
The Midway fire chief and others began pulling together a fundraiser, including selling t-shirts.
“We're trying to take some of the burden off of her,” says Robert Sammons. “She has two kids to worry about and the house and things to worry about, so we're trying to take some of that burden away and try to make things easier for her.”
The folks at the nearby Farmer boy Diner agreed to help sell t-shirts.
The next day, frequent customer Billy Fuccillo walked in - and when the owner told him the story behind the shirts, he told her to call Robert.
“The whole story, I just melted,” says Billy Fuccillo. “From what I understand, they're very, very deserving people and if you can change somebody's life and make it a little bit easier especially on a person like this that has two children, it's the right thing to do.”
Robert Sammons says, “He offered to do a roof, windows, siding, front porch. He's just, he's really come through for us.”
Billy Fuccillo says he's done this in other markets where he has dealerships – Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse - and he says it's huge for him to be able the people who are helping him live a dream.
Billy Fuccillo says, “My dad always says, do the right thing. When you put your head on the pillow at night, make sure you've done the right thing throughout the day.”
Through all this, Billy and Caryn still haven't met - but they probably will at a fundraiser set for august 21.
Walt McClure asks, “What do you want to say to him when you meet him?”
Caryn Anderson says, “Thank you. Just thank you, and it just means so much.”
Caryn and Robert both say it's amazing that this man who doesn't know them from Adam would offer to help.
Billy Fuccillo knows a lot of people think of him as that loud guy on TV, but he says that’s an act and this is the real him.
Orange Roofing from Colonie says they donated the services for the roof. Allied Building Supply in Colonie paid for the materials. The roof was started and completed in just one day.
If you'd like to help also, a benefit fund has been set up in Donnie Anderson’s name.
It’s the Donnie Anderson Memorial Family Benefit Fund
c/o Capital Communications Federal Credit Union
18 Computer Dr. East
Albany, NY 12205
You can also reach out to Robert Sammons directly via email at email@example.com