From – thanks MB!

On November 1st, 2003, five-year-old Evan Parness, while watching the news with his father, learned of the devastation of California’s worst firestorm in the state’s history. Wide-eyed, this young boy told his father he wanted to send toys and clothes to the children who had just lost everything.

Four days later, 1000 emails, and 100 volunteers combined with immeasurable love, the boy’s father and friends began a journey which has spun into an ever-growing foundation. Off to California in a U-haul truck, full of toys and relief items, with a banner that read “New York Says Thank You,” never did they realize what that statement would be.

Jeff Parness along with Stavros Michailidis and Marius Calin, and with help from Kevin Potente, drove cross-country to deliver clothes, children’s toys, and other relief items to the fire victims in Southern California being aided by Father Joe’s Villages/St. Vincent de Paul in San Diego. A large banner on the truck read ‘New York Says Thank You’ as a way to promote the journey and its meaning and to gain additional donations.  People nationwide- from West Virginia to Oklahoma to Arizona—came through, donating whatever they could to the truck.

Over 500 New Yorkers and Americans from all across the country participated in these initial efforts.  With the help of the Lions Club, the Rodeph Sholom School in New York City, and JetBlue Airways, The New York Says Thank You Foundation outfitted a recreation room for the 300 children of Harbison Canyon, CA, a rural community east of San Diego in which 287 of 388 homes burned to the ground in the October 2003 wildfires

Every year on the anniversary of 9/11, New York father and son take New York City firefighters and other New Yorkers, who personally experienced 9/11, to help rebuild a community affected by a disaster. The New York Says Thank You Foundation has helped rebuild homes burned in the Southern California wildfires; replanted 428 trees in two small Illinois towns devastated by an F3 tornado; rebuilt a 140-year-old church destroyed in a deadly Indiana tornado; and rebuilt the tornado-ravaged home of a Texas family that has cared for Disabled Veterans for three generations; helped rebuild the homes lost in Hurricane Katrina of a 6-year-old boy in Slidell, Louisiana battling Leukemia and a 38-year-old mother in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi battling terminal cancer; and built a 14000 sq. ft. 4-H fairground pavilion/barn for the town of Greensburg, Kansas that was 95% destroyed by an EF-5 tornado.

Amazingly, volunteers from every community helped in the past, continually show up year after year, no matter the location, to “pay it forward.” From a 5-year-old’s idea, the group has grown to include dozens of firefighters from across the nation (including many from NYFD) and volunteers from all walks of life. The giving nature of this movement is a true lesson in humanity to everyone involved. Next year, a documentary film is presenting the Foundation’s story from conception to future growth, carefully weaving between stories of devastation, feelings of unconditional love, patriotism, sharing and above all else, what is at the core of this great country- Heart.

Below is a clip of last year’s project; rebuilding a scout camp devastated by a tornado in the summer of 2008, which killed four boy scouts:

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