A little over a week ago, I learned that a 10 year old Canadian girl named Ariella was infatuated with Buffalo. Ariella and her family live just across the head of the Niagara River, where they look out upon this city every day of the week. Growing up, Ariella has watched the fireworks from afar, and the city’s skyline, always wondering what Buffalo was like. It took an email from her mother Anne to open up the world of Buffalo to Ariella. Upon writing to Buffalo Rising, about Ariella’s fascination with the city, I took it upon myself to interview the youngster (see here). The interview took on a life of its own, when I learned that Ariella was a devote Sabres fan. Her mother and her sister Danielle were also fans of the Sabres. So I concocted a plan, to get Buffalo Rising readers to help get the trio a “day trip of a lifetime”… but would Buffalonians step up to help?
The call to action was like nothing I could have ever imagined. It all started off with a local pilot by the name of Alexander Levine offering to take the three for a sunrise aerial tour of Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Then Therese Forton Barnes (BFLOExperience) called me and told me that Jerry and Laura Forton would like to donate three tickets to the afternoon Sabres game (200 level tickets – this past Saturday @ 1pm). Therese herself donated a signed Jack Eichel baseball cap, and a signed Phil Housley Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame puck. Then Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper donated a comfy knit hat. And Tom Cefalu of Millennium Construction donated a $150 Sabresbucks gift card, good for a couple of jerseys. Teresa Belbas, Manager of Community Relations at the Sabres, donated a Gold Carpet Experience for the game, which allowed Ariella to fistbump the players as they walked onto the ice (during 1st intermission), and then visit the press box (during 2nd intermission). Teresa also scored additional merch, a zamboni ride, and three tickets to The Buffalo Beauts women’s professional hockey team, which happened to be on the same day (5pm).
And this was just the beginning. Oh, and as an aside, Ariella had no idea that anything was going on, except for the Sabres game!
After the plane excursion, the trio ended up at The Ice @ Canalside, where Rachelle Mysiak of Skating Club of Western New York (SCWNY) and Jessica Roswell of Skate Great set the two girls up with some ice time and some swag. They sectioned off part of the rink, where the sisters were met by a videographer from the Buffalo Sabres, who shot some B-roll that aired during the Sabres game for a segment called Ariella’s Day in Buffalo.
Between the Sabres game and The Beauts game, a lunch at Panorama on Seven was donated by developer Paul Ciminelli. Paul also donated a marvelous Queen City Tuk Tuk tour for the family. Co-owner Joshua Bornhoeft toured them around Delaware Avenue, and Chippewa, before dropping them off at Osteria 166, where owner Nick Pitillo treated them to a scrumptious Italian dinner.
Incredibly, the Marriott HARBORCENTER donated a suite so that the family could stay the night in Buffalo, and not have to worry about driving back to Canada that night. So they get to stay in the top ranked Marriott in the country (for last 3 years in row), in a room that overlooked The Ice @ Canalside. The General Manager Huseyin Taran arranged for a tray of cookies, candies, donuts, and sodas that was almost too good to be true. The girls went crazy, according to their mom.
Other people who helped out for the Saturday excursion were Rich Wall who got the girls on the Jumbotron at the game. Sabretooth, who apparently gives the greatest hugs (Sabretooth is also the mascot for The Beauts). Marinette Kozlow from Inspired Buffalo who donated a Buffalo t-shirt and sweatshirt. Drew Brown from Visit Buffalo Niagara provided an awesome bag full of Buffalo goodies. Sam Hoyt who helped to get the word out about the effort.
In the end, we just couldn’t fit everything into one day, which is why we decided that there is going to be a Part II of this fabulous adventure. The West Side Bazaar has donated Bazaar Bucks (gift certificates) for lunch or dinner on their return trip to Buffalo. They will also be treated to brunch at Trattoria Aroma on Bryant Street thanks to owner Dave Cosentino. Ellen Zelasko of Hello Buffalo! Urban Hikes & Bikes has provided a free afternoon tour of the city. Josh Ketry at Buffalo RiverWorks has donated a lunch, and Danielle Buchbinder of The Buffalo Curling Club has offered a free curling lesson for the girls.
And thanks to the Buffalo Sabres for winning 5-2 that day – it was the icing on the cake.
Whew! I am completely blown away at the generosity that I have witnessed since first posting the article. The only thing that didn’t come to fruition was getting Ariella her favorite Buffalo food – chicken wings. We tried to get some at 716 at HarborCenter, but it was an hour long wait before the game. Other than that, everything went off like clockwork, including the Metro Rail ride home after dinner, where Ariella was literally falling asleep while standing waiting for the train to arrive.
According to Anne, Ariella wants to start looking at houses in Buffalo to live, and has officially fallen head over heals with this city. It sounds as if her school mate friends are also onboard with the Buffalo experience. As for Ariella, I’ll let her tell you how she feels about the entire Buffalo experience, in her own words: