Support Pours In For Hartford Team Victimized In Arson

T.J. Garrahy spent more than 20 years of his life serving the residents of Hartford as a firefighter. Retirement clearly hasn’t stopped that service.

“I’ve got a soft spot for Hartford, and our company enjoys giving back whenever we can,” Garrahy said Monday of American Integrity Restoration, where he’s the business development manager. “We saw there was an opportunity to help these kids out, and that’s what we did.”

The Glastonbury company worked over the weekend to clean and restore some of the Hartford Hurricanes’ equipment damaged Thursday in an arson.

Their efforts saved about 25 of the team’s new helmets and an entire box of warmup gear for the Pop Warner football team’s cheerleaders.

The decision to pitch in came after Garrahy saw news reports detailing the damage Friday night. And after consulting with his friends who are still active firefighters, he took a ride up to Keney Park, where the team’s damaged storage trailer is parked.

“It was an easy sell for us,” Garrahy said. “This is what we do.”

Garrahy and his colleagues boxed some of the equipment up late Monday, shipping it out to Phil Bryant, the president of the Hurricanes, in time for practice.

To hear Bryant tell it, their gesture was just one example of an outpouring of goodwill shown to the team since the fire.

A GoFundMe page created by Bryant had amassed nearly $9,000 in a matter of days.

“The support is overwhelming,” Bryant said Monday. “I’ve lost count of how many phone calls I’ve gotten.”

A Connecticut Youth Football League team from New Hartford dedicated a fundraiser at their weekend game to the team.

At that same game, against the Canton Warriors, a Canton woman took the money she won from a 50-50 raffle and donated it back to the Hurricanes.

They’ve received pledges far and wide, from a Bloomfield family who promised the team $5,000, to an offer from Hartford High School football coach Harry Belucci to borrow some of their equipment.

Even Chris Baker, a defensive tackle for the Washington Redskins born in Windsor, has expressed interest in helping the Hurricanes.

“I was surprised by all this, so surprised,” Bryant said. “This is Hartford — with the budget and the economy, I thought I’d have to hit the ground running in the offseason and try to make it all back. But this changes everything.”

The effects of the fire are still felt, though, and he said plenty of work needs to be done before the team returns to its normal state.

Still, Bryant is beyond grateful for the selflessness of those who donated.

“Even if someone didn’t have money but shared our story on Facebook, they took the time to utilize their platform to help us out and I appreciate that,” he said.

Meanwhile, the suspect, Kevon Bennett, remains in custody on arson, criminal mischief and related charges, court records show.

Bennett appeared in Superior Court in Hartford on Monday and his case was continued to Oct. 11.

Courant staff writer David Owens contributed to this report.

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