In late December, a severe blizzard swept through Western New York, taking the lives of almost 40 people. Jay Withey, 27, stepped into action when he helped strangers out of cars that were buried in the snow, and brought them to a nearby school for shelter.
The Buffalo Bills and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York, which sponsors the team, surprised Withey on Friday, 13 January with two tickets to next month’s Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona.
A video shared to Twitter on Friday shows former Bills running back Thurman Thomas and his wife, Patti, personally delivering the surprise to Withey. “We love you. We know what you did on Christmas Eve was very heroic, and you’re our hero,” Thomas told Withey in the clip.
Withey – who had initially been dubbed “Merry Christmas Jay” by police – was stranded in the town of Cheektowaga when he spent the evening of 23 December inside a truck with two strangers. He then spent the next morning helping people who were buried in the snow out of their cars and bringing them to shelter at a nearby school, Pine Hill Primary Center.
On Christmas Eve, Withey broke into the school through a window, which he later repaired with duct tape and cardboard, and also used the school’s snow blower to clear the cars from his group that had been buried in the snow.
Withey then left a note apologising for breaking into and damaging the school building, explaining that it was a place where people who had been stranded outside could get shelter, sustenance, and access to a bathroom. He signed the note, “Jay”.
“To whomever it may concern, I’m terribly sorry about breaking the school window and for breaking in the kitchen,” the note read. “Got stuck at 8pm Friday and slept in my truck with two strangers just trying not to die. There were seven elderly people also stuck and out of fuel. I had to do it to save everyone and get them shelter and food and a bathroom. Merry Christmas Jay.”
Cheektowaga police sought to identify Withey to thank him for his heroic actions, and asked the community for assistance identifying him using security footage taken from the school.
After identifying Withey as “Merry Christmas Jay,” the Cheektowaga police department wrote in a tweet: “We identified the amazing Jay with the help of his friends and family! Our chief was able to meet with him and express our gratitude for his heroic actions.”