Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Terry Sams Jr. was in a crowd of people watching police pull Isabella Tennant, the Falls child murdered earlier this week, from a trash can.
He saw her mother, Crystal Walker, scream in horror as she realized that her little girl was gone and immediately started to think of ways that he could help the grieving mother and her family.
Sams was likely one of the only people in the crowd that could say that he knew how Walker felt at that moment. Both his father, William T. Sams Sr. and his aunt, Carolyn F. Littlefeather, were murdered in separate incidents in Niagara Falls in the 1990s.
“I know how it feels,” he said. “I wanted to be involved.”
Sams and his family started collecting money during a vigil that was held at Sal Maglie Stadium in Hyde Park on Monday night for the Tennant’s family to help them deal with the cost of burying the five-year-old girl.
Before that vigil, Sams said he gathered his daughters Alyssa, 11, and Alyia, 8, his son William Terry Sams III, 5, and their neighborhood friend Andrea Serrianni, 8, and told them, “We’re going to collect money to send this baby to heaven.”
Then he, his wife, Wendy Sams-Zimmerman, and the children headed to the stadium to set to their task.
While at the vigil Sams met Mark O’Farrell, co-owner of Players Lounge, the Niagara Street sports bar where Walker was working on the night of her daughter’s death.
Sams said that he asked O’Farrell if he would handle the money that his family was collecting at the vigil.
O’Farrell agreed and after dropping his family off at home, Sams met the bar owner at his establishment to count the money, he said.
The two sat in O’Farrell’s office and counted out $1,250.
“I was just doing it out of the kindness of my heart,” Sams said.
O’Farrell said that he was touched by the Sams family’s efforts.
“I was kind of surprised that someone who didn’t even know Crystal would do that,” O’Farrell said.
In addition to the funds that the Sams family raised money is being collected at the bar and O’Farrell and his business partner will be giving to Walker to help lessen her burden during this trying time, he said.
“We were all devastated,” O’Farrell said.
O’Farrell is also planning on having a fundraising event at Players Lounge in the next couple of weeks.
“That little girl was Crystal’s life,” O’Farrell said. “Crystal is a terrific mother. I’d be proud to have her as a daughter.”
Chris Mattice knows Walker and her family and was shocked when he heard what had happened to Tennant.
“It hits really close to home for me,” Mattice said. “I have a five-year-old.”
Mattice’s son Cameron and Tennant have played together before. He knows the family through mutual friends, he said.
“I can’t imagine the pain,” Mattice said.
Mattice’s annual music festival “ChrisFest” will take place this Saturday at Honey’s restaurant on Niagara Falls Boulevard and $1 from every ticket sold will be put into a fund for the family. Honey’s owner Larry Pacifico has agreed to match that amount, Mattice said.
Donations will also be collected throughout the concert.
“This is the way that I can contribute,” Mattice said.
Dave Pietrowski is a partner at LoVullo Associates Inc., a Depew-based insurance company. He has set up an account with First Niagara where money for the family will be collected.
Pietrowski set up the account after Tennant’s aunt, who works at his insurance company, began talking about the many fundraising efforts that were happening around the city and beyond.
“There’s a lot of people with good intentions setting up fundraisers,” Pietrowski said. “We wanted to create something that was more centralized to make sure that everything was going to the family.”
Pietrowski said that he has been in contact with some of the people who have collected money and that anyone who has collected money on the family’s behalf will be able to put those funds in the account.
An account for the family has been set up on indiegogo.com, a crowd-funding website. That account had raised over $6,800 by the time the Gazette went to press.
That money will also go into the First Niagara account, Pietrowski said.
“Frankly it’s much easier to donate from a desk than it is to go into a bank,” Pietrowski said.
Terry Sams Jr., the man whose family passed the hat to raise money during the vigil for Tennant at Sal Maglie Stadium, said that he knew right after seeing Crystal Walker break into tears standing in a downtown alley Monday morning that he had to do something to help.
“We’re all going to chip in to put the child to peace,” he said.