Event is a warm tribute to a 'gentle giant'
<![CDATA[A question I am often asked is "Who is the most famous person you've ever interviewed?" My response is that I've interviewed many famous people -- Olympic athletes, politicians, authors, actors, musicians, etc. -- but that the interviews that move me the most are not always with the people who are most known. Rather, the most amazing people I've had the privilege of interviewing are those who lead ordinary lives like all of us, but have had extraordinary tragedy befall them. It is the mothers and fathers who have taken the unbearable loss of a child and selflessly turned it into a thanksgiving that leave me in awe -- mothers like Karen Leidig of Hamlin. On August 12, 2003, Leidig's 20-year-old son Matthew Fitton was killed in a car accident in the town of Sweden. He was a former center on the Brockport High School varsity basketball team; a Helping Hands employee at Wegmans, and a student at The College at Brockport. A towering 6 feet, 6 inches tall, he was described by those who loved him as a "gentle giant" who loved to help others, especially children. In the days and year following Matt's death, his mother searched for a way to memorialize his helping nature. She founded Matt's Coats for Kids in the fall of 2004. The organization collects new and gently used coats from the community and distributes them, for free, to children and adults in need. Over the past eight years, the all-volunteer organization has distributed 4,950 coats. "Even though I got this opportunity to give back to the community in the worst way imaginable -- by losing my son -- and I would give it all back if it meant I could get my son back, I'm so thankful for it," Leidig said. "Each year it re-affirms my faith that people are good." This year, Matt's Coats for Kids has drop-off locations for people to donate coats at more than 25 locations on the west side, including: Brockport: Brockport Free Methodist Church; Brockport United Methodist Church; Christ Community Church; Concordia Lutheran Church; Curves; ESL Federal Credit Union; First Baptist Church; First Presbyterian Church; Kiddie Kollege; Seymour Library; Sweden Clarkson Community Center. Clarkson: Clarkson Community Church, Clarkson Town Hall. Spencerport: Adams Basin Methodist Church; Slayton Place Restaurant. Hamlin: Hamlin New Testament Church; Hamlin Public Library; Hamlin Town Hall; Life Solutions; Morton Baptist Church; Nina's Golden Scissors; St. John Lutheran Church; Tops. Greece: Park Ridge Child Care Center. Henrietta: Deprez Travel. Hilton: St. Paul Lutheran Church. Leidig said it is not too late for businesses to host a drop box or for those who want to volunteer for the distribution days to do so. People also can drop coats off during the event. Until next Friday, may your own west-side stories be great ones... Contact Caurie Putnam at [email protected] with news from west-side towns. On Facebook as "West Extra of the Democrat and Chronicle" and Twitter as @CauriePutnam. ***** If you go What: Matt's Coats for Kids 2013. When: 2 to 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7. Where: Brockport Fire Department Station 3, 191 West Ave., Brockport. Cost: Free. Information: mattscoats.webs.com.
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