WHEATFIELD – Shawn Moynihan doesn’t know the North Tonawanda firefighter targeted by a racist letter and burned out of his home. But he helped raise more than $100,000 for him.
Moynihan, 20, a member of the Bergholz Volunteer Fire Company in Wheatfield, wanted to show solidarity with Kenneth Walker, the firefighter victimized by the arson on Wednesday. So that day he started a page on the gofundme website to raise money for Walker, the only black firefighter in North Tonawanda.
As of midday Friday, the page had raised more than $104,000, a rapidly rising total.
“He’s just a fellow firefighter and (Shawn) wanted to show him that people care and that we’re not racist, let him know that there’s more people good than bad,” Moynihan’s father, Robert Moynihan. told The Buffalo News Friday.
He said his son “kept telling me, ‘Dad, I’m not in it for publicity.’”
The elder Moynihan said, “He didn’t expect it to get so large. He thought he’d be able to raise enough to help the guy get re-established, maybe pay for a motel room.”
His father said Shawn Moynihan joined the Bergholz fire company and a Wheatfield volunteer ambulance company, Tri-Community Ambulance, shortly after his 18th birthday.
“I’ve always tried to instill that he give back to the community,” said Robert Moynihan, a disabled military veteran. “He’s obviously taken the ball and run with that.”
More than 2,670 people donated to Walker’s family via the gofundme page.
“Thanks for setting up a legit way for folks outside of the NT area to support this guy and his family and let him know one bad apple doesn’t represent the rest of the community he serves as firefighter,” wrote one donor, Jeremy Sniatecki. “Hoping this effort can be a positive thing in their lives, despite the recent horribleness laid on them.”
But some comments posted on the gofundme site weren’t positive. Some pointed to Walker’s statement that he didn’t want donations and accused Moynihan of trying to cash in.
“People accuse him and Ken of being in it together, that he burned his own house down and they were going to split the money,” Robert Moynihan said.
A former North Tonawanda firefighter, Matthew Jurado, 39, was arrested Thursday and charged with second-degree arson in connection with the blaze. Jurado, who lives across Oliver Street from Walker, pleaded not guilty Friday morning in North Tonawanda City Court and was jailed in lieu of $50,000 bail.
Robert Moynihan responded to the critics on gofundme by posting, “I have never been prouder of my son. He set up this gofundme account to help a brother firefighter. He has never met Ken Walker and (they) are not friends on Facebook. Do we have to be friends to want to help somebody in need? That’s what firefighters do.”