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Anonymous gift brings joy to THS hoops champs

It was a special gift for a special team.

This past Christmas, the Tonawanda Warriors girls basketball team had their own secret Santa. And boy, did he ever spread some holiday cheer.

Every player from last season’s ECIC IV division championship team received a maroon and white padded folding chair that commemorated the 2011-12 season. What really had the girls wondering was that it came from an anonymous source.

“I was surprised; I didn’t know who it came from at first,” senior Joanna McCarthy said. “(My brother)

Brian called me downstairs and said, ‘there’s a present here for you.’ It was amazing. It’s such a memorable piece to have. It was right after Christmas, so I thought, ‘did somebody get me this for Christmas?’”

McCarthy wasn’t the only one who immediately thought it was a special Christmas gift. It wasn’t long before the social media world lit up as the girls started posting pictures of their chair on Facebook asking the simple question of, ‘who did this?’

Tina Partridge, who graduated, was one of the first to post a message about the chairs and she appropriately said, “it was the best gift I got this year! Thank you to whoever did this. I absolutely love it!”

Coach Jay Hall, who with assistant Tom Burdo also received chairs, did some digging around to find out who was the secret Santa.

It wasn’t long before the team found out that the man behind the gift was Kurt Amico, whose daughter Jessica was among the five seniors from that championship team.

“I know every time I sit in my chair to do my homework I’m thinking about the team, last year and how we started off as not a great team,” said Jessica Amico, who attends Drexel University in Philadelphia.

“We had trouble trying to figure out teamwork then we grew and grew. And we won.”

Jessica said that once girls found out her father was behind the generous offering, they quickly text thank you messages and talked about how much they missed each other.

The Amicos, Partridge and former Warriors’ Kendra O’Connor and Heather Heim were on-hand at the Miller Gym as part of a pre-game ceremony prior to Tonawanda’s Jan.3 game against Hutch-Tech.

The chairs have written on them a ‘Basketball Champions’ and ‘2011-12’ with a Warrior head logo on the seat. First names are printed on the front pad of the seat; ‘Warriors’ are on the front backrest; and sir names printed on the back of the chairs.

Originally, Kurt Amico wanted to get a special present for Jess to put in her dorm room at school. But when the company told Kurt Amico he would have to order a minimum of 12 chairs that’s when he decided that a team-wide gift to celebrate how far the program had come in the last six years was the only way to go.

“I spent an awful long time following this team,” Kurt Amico said. “From terrible, to good, to oh my God they won a championship. So I wanted to do something for Jess...It occurred to me we had at least 12 girls on the team. It felt good because like I said I’ve been following these kids for six years, at least.”

Ordering 24 chairs all together, Amico joked that they have four chairs in the basement in case they have a party, while the other eight are currently at his work. The response from the girls has been overwhelmingly grateful.

But Amico said he wasn’t looking for a pat on the back. If anything it was his thank you to the program for all of the wonderful memories he took away as a parent watching his kids play and bonding with other families.

“I wasn’t looking for anything out of this,” Kurt Amico said. “They made my life happier just watching them play. I love watching my daughter play.”

Everyone agreed that the champ chairs are a unique way to celebrate the title. Jess Amico said knowing her dad was behind a gift that brought so much joy to the team made her day.

“I’m pretty proud of my dad,” Jess said with a smile. “He was really into the season, he never missed a game. He was pretty much friends with all of my friends and very close with the team. So it was nice, everybody really appreciated it.”

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