Ethan Ashcroft, age 3, on his first day of preschool. (Provided photo)

The City of Tonawanda doubled the money it had raised to help the ill grandson of a city police detective after The Buffalo News published a story Friday about the effort.

As word spread about city police officers growing beards to raise money for 3-year-old Ethan Ashcroft, area residents also stepped up Friday, increasing the donations the officers had raised from $3,400 to more than $8,000.

"We had two anonymous donors come into city hall and each donated $1,000. Others were dropping off $20 and $25," wrote Police Capt. Frederic F. Foels.

Ethan, the grandson of Detective Joseph Scarpena, was recently diagnosed with mitochondrial disease, a chronic incurable and rare illness that strikes at the cellular level and may affect a variety of organs. The money raised by the city will help to defray medical costs for genetic testing and to take Ethan to a specialist in Atlanta.

Foels said a few police officers take tae kwon do classes at Master Gorino's Tae Kwon-Do and the owner, Chuck Gorino, donated $1,116 – in honor of Scarpena's badge number – 116.

In addition, former Buffalo Bill Lou Piccone called the City of Tonawanda Police Department and offered to host a celebrity bartender fundraiser, which will be held 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Anchor Bar in Amherst, 4300 Maple Road. Everyone is welcome, bearded or not.

"This is very heartwarming to have more people – these people don't even know us and they are jumping in to help," said Ethan's mom, Sara Ashcroft. "It meant a lot when the police department did this for us, but these are complete strangers that are coming together and trying to raise money to help out as well."

She said Ethan will also be one of the many beneficiaries of funds raised at the HarzFest on 3 to 11 p.m., March 4, at Eldridge Bicycle Club, 17 Broad St., Tonawanda. Tickets available online through the Jim Harz Foundation.

The City of Tonawanda's bearded cops will continue to raise funds through the end of February. The officer who collects the most donations for Ethan will be treated to lunch with Mayor Rick Davis. Donations can continue to be dropped off at the desk in City Hall or mailed to the police department at 200 Niagara St., Tonawanda, 14150.

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