Supporters of injured Buffalo Police Officer Gary D. Sengbusch gathered with him Thursday at Coca-Cola Field to promote an upcoming major benefit to help cover his medical costs.
Sitting between Mike Buczkowski, Bisons vice president and general manager, and the Rev. Joseph F. Moreno, Sengbusch received assurances that thousands of Western New Yorkers will be rooting for him as he throws the ceremonial first pitch next Thursday evening at the downtown ballpark.
"I can't wait to see Gary out there," Buczkowski said. " Thousands and thousands of people will be here to help."
"This is what we do best in Buffalo, helping each other out," said Moreno, sacramental minister at St. Lawrence Catholic Church and a strong supporter of first-responders.
In addition to all the local support, Sengbusch is getting some major league assists from baseball greats Derek Jeter and Carl Yastrzemski, who have autographed jerseys that will be raffled. Sabres goalie Ryan Miller has autographed a hockey stick that also will be raffled.
And if that wasn't enough, there will be raffles for a 46-inch, flat-screen television that late-night comedian Jay Leno has donated and autographed, and prizes from the New York Mets and the Bisons.
It was all very humbling for Sengbusch, who returned home last week after spending nearly four months in Erie County Medical Center following the early morning Feb. 25 collision that nearly killed him.
He had just left a security job at a Main Street nightspot and was on his way to meet his girlfriend when an alleged drunken driver slammed into the off-duty officer's vehicle. A woman in the other driver's vehicle was killed.
Asked how he is adjusting to life, Sengbusch said, "My brain still says it wants to get up and do things." He is able to walk with a cane and hopes to shed that by the end of summer.
Tickets for the event are $10 and include a pregame pavilion party at 5 p.m. with food and drinks in the center-field area. Providing live music will be Buffalo's Strictly Hip band.
After the Bisons' game against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, which starts at 7:05 p.m., there will be a fireworks display. Following that, the party moves to the Pearl Street Grill & Brewery. Bill Yuhnke, president of Liberty Cab, has made his taxis available to provide free rides home from the ballpark or the brewery for anyone who requests the service.
Tickets can be purchased at the ballpark box office, online at Bisons.com or teamgary.org, at police stations throughout the city, the Music Exchange in Hamburg, the Buffalo Sports Garden in Orchard Park, Park Avenue Imprints in Lackawanna, the Irish Center in South Buffalo and WECK Radio in Cheektowaga.