Dozens of weekend warriors turned out for an annual charity softball tournament in Schenectady on Saturday. Players aimed to hit a homerun for local children in need.
YNN's Geoff Redick has our story on that tournament, and the man behind it.
SCHENECTADY, N.Y. -- The first thing you notice when you meet court security officer Chris Foti is the size of his towering, muscular frame. The very next thing you notice is the size of his loud personality.
But it's the part of Chris Foti you can't see or hear, that's most important.
"I'm gonna tell you something," says Ray Feurstein, glancing towards Foti. "His heart is bigger than he is."
Feurstein is the chief of the Schenectady County Auxiliary Police, and is just one of the people helped year-round by Chris Foti. On Saturday in Schenectady's Central Park, it happened that Chris Foti and his brothers in the Fraternal Order of Police were hosting a charity softball tournament in part to benefit Feurstein's police force. Foti had decided on it earlier this year.
"They are one-hundred percent trained in their use of defense tactics, and firearms, and use-of-force. They're just like any other police agency, except they're volunteers," says Foti, sounding as surprised as he likely was the first time he heard about the Auxiliary Police. "They pay for their own equipment, they pay for their own uniforms...and they give their time to the community."
Feurstein and his officers receive no pay for their efforts. Most have other day jobs, and when they're dispatched to the scene of a police event, they drive their own vehicles to get there. The Schenectady County Auxiliary Police is the oldest such organization in the United States, and one of the only ones remaining and surviving.
"If we get a 'thank you,' it's just as good as a paycheck for these guys," says Feurstein. "I have a great unit. They're very devoted."
When Foti heard about the Auxiliary Police, he says he knew it was his personal duty to help them.
"I said to myself, 'Okay...there's angels walking among us,'" Foti recalls. He made the decision on the spot to dedicate a portion of his charity earnings to Feurstein's operation.
"If anybody deserves a commendation, that man does," says Feurstein about Foti. "To help organizations like mine, and others, the way he has, it's just outstanding. This man has a big heart."
And this story could end happily with just that, except Foti's heart is even bigger.
"Chris Foti? Oh my gosh, Chris Foti is amazing," gushes Rayn Boncie, a well-known local caregiver who is the founder and CEO of Things of My Very Own, Inc. Boncie has experienced Foti's generosity on more than one occasion.
"In the past three years (of the softball tournament), because of his efforts, we've been able to help hundreds of children in Schenectady," she says. In her own right, Boncie is something of a miracle worker herself. After realizing her paycheck at Things of My Very Own was detracting from the organization's overall mission, Boncie forfeited her salary earlier this year. She is now surviving on a tax return that she says has nearly run-out.
"When I met her, to see whether we would benefit her organization with this tournament," recalls Foti. "I told her I was sure of two things. Number one, I said, 'I'm sure we're going to hold this tournament in your honor.'"
"He is an amazing, amazing person," says Frank Graniero. Graniero is the regional vice-president of the Fraternal Order of Police, and is just one more person to heap praise upon Chris Foti. "He sets up this whole tournament for us, he organizes the teams, he goes around trying to get donations...if it wasn't for him, there would be no softball tournament," says Graniero.
To learn more about volunteering with the Schenectady County Auxiliary Police Force, call the Schenectady County Office of Emergency Management at 518-370-3113, or click here.
To donate to Things of My Very Own, Inc., visit www.TOMVO.org, or use your cell phone to text message the word 'THINGS' to the number 52000 to donate $10.