It started with a social media post and a costume, the spitting image of Randy Quaid’s “Cousin Eddie” from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
But the lighthearted Dec. 7 post announced a cause close to Salamanca native pro lacrosse player Frank Brown. With the “1st Annual Cousin Brownie Holiday Give Back to benefit Seneca families from the Allegany and Cattaraugus Territories,” Brown said he aimed to help his native community by raising money and toys this season.
On his website (cousinbrownie.org), Brown lays out different ways donors can help as he partners with the Seneca Nation Child and Family Services: by Venmo (@CousinBrownie) or Paypal, or by purchasing toys for youngsters off a linked Amazon gift list.
“THE FACT of the matter is a lot of people are experiencing some hard times financially and I think the kids in our community are experiencing some hard times socially,” Brown said Monday afternoon. “The sad reality is there are a lot of kids that go through Christmas without really having much of anything under the tree. You add the social impact of this pandemic and it just breaks your heart. So I felt like I have built up a platform and a network that could really make a difference and upon discussing it with some close friends and family, I felt like it would be a shame if we didn’t put it to good use to help some kids in our community this holiday season.”
When brainstorming his plans for the give back and unable to hold large public events, Brown turned to his social media channels. With nearly 4,000 Instagram followers and more than 1,000 on Twitter, he could reach an audience.
“The social media aspect is kind of a product of the fact that nobody can really get together right now with everything going on,” he said. “I just think my social media branches out to a wide range of different people. I think there’s people from the field lacrosse community, there’s people from the box lacrosse community, there’s people I went to college with, there’s people I met when I was living in Philadelphia playing with the Wings. There’s just a lot of people that I felt like I could reach through doing it through social media.”
BROWN, A Hobart College graduate who signed a two-year contract with Buffalo Bandits after his third pro season, said he relies on a small group of family members in what he jokingly calls the “Cousin Brownie Committee,” running the organization primarily through group-chat. He consulted with a cousin with a degree in cybersecurity in setting up the website.
The idea, Brown said, came simply from his care for his community and the future generations to come from it.
“I feel like a lot of what I’ve done in my career and in my life was kind of to open the door for future generations and the love for my community has pushed me through a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “To have the ability to positively influence this community is what it’s always been about. I just feel like I’m finally in a position to do that. The one thing that gives me some anxiety while all this is going on is the attention. I don’t really believe anything that I’ve done was for the recognition, the attention. I did a lot of that stuff because it was my dream and I wanted to just create a stronger reputation for young boys and girls from our communities.”
To incentivize donors, Brown added daily raffles this week — with one entry for every $10 donated or spent on toys off the gift list — to give out lacrosse memorabilia from donors including Paul Rabil, Cody Jamieson, Randy Staats, Premier League Lacrosse and the MLL’s Boston Cannons. Brown said he didn’t want to announce total fundraising figures until the drive ends later this week, but he’s encouraged so far.
“We’ve gotten donations from some really big names and organizations in the lacrosse community and that’s a testament to how willing to help everyone is. It’s just a matter of putting it together,” Brown said.
“The response has been more than I could have imagined. We kind of came with this idea and put it into action in a matter of I think four days …. getting up a website and everything that was required to get this thing off the ground was put together in no time. So the response has been awesome.”
(Salamanca Press sports editor Sam Wilson may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)