On October 11, 2009, a wooden carving of former Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas was unveiled in a pregame ceremony in the stadium in Orchard Park, New York. The 8 1/2-foot statue, carved from a fallen tree caused by the October storm in Buffalo in 2006, had disappeared after the game.
The mystery of the missing statue was solved when a Canadian fan phoned Theresa Forton-Barnes, the founder of Carvings for a Cause, the organization that owns the carving, to say that he took the statue from the parking lot because fans had tried to burn it. Was this another of a series of incidents which had plagued the losing team since the beginning of the season? Two other Buffalo Bills players had previously been victims of vandalism and robberies at their homes after a game loss by the Bills.
Thurman Thomas, Buffalo Bills number 34, was the subject of the 34th statue carved by the organization Carvings for a Cause. There are enough large tree trunks for 80 carved statues.
Three years ago in October 2006, two feet of snow fell on Buffalo and its environs causing deaths, damage and power outages that lasted for weeks. The weight of the heavy wet snow caused the trees to topple and bring down the power lines. Western New Yorkers, accustomed to winter weather, helped one another to dig out and clean up after the surprise October storm. The City of Good Neighbors earned its name once again.
Theresa Forton-Barnes found a way to turn lemons into lemonade when she started Carvings for a Cause. She has recovered over 80 tree trunks from the storm and is in the process of having them carved into significant local figures from the region. These statues are being placed throughout the Buffalo area as a reflection of a community that cares deeply about the place they call home.
The following celebrities connected in some way to western New York are among the 34 who have thus far been immortalized with a wooden statue from an eight foot fallen tree. More will follow.
Jim Kelly, former quarterback for the Buffalo Bills
Tim Russert, former moderator of Meet the Press
Frank Lloyd Wright, architect
Frederick Law Olmstead, landscape architect
Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy
Harold Arlen, songwriter – “Over the Rainbow” and others
Red Jacket, Seneca Indian Chief
Father Nelson Baker, Servant of God, whose Cause for Canonization has begun
Joyce Carol Oates, novelist
Thanks to Frederick Law Olmstead, the landscape architect who created the Park system in Buffalo, several species of trees, some of them 75 to 200 years old, have adorned Buffalo parks and streets for over 100 years. Maple, Red Maple, Linden, Austrian Pine, Poplar, Red Oak and Cypress are familiar sights in the area. Now these trees continue to live on in those stately wooden statues that greet the residents and visitors who are compelled to pause and smile at this phenomenon that we have learned to cherish.