Cortland (WSYR-TV) - It’s been a tough couple of years for a pair of local teenagers. The two adopted siblings lost both of their parents to cancer within 15 months and are now being cared for by their older brother, Michael.
Now their community is pulling together to support their family.
The Sea Dragons are a community swim team built around children with special needs that is housed at SUNY Cortland. Its mission of helping kids swim has expanded to include two former members outside the pool.
"Two really nice kids, watched them grow up for a couple years now. They're in a situation I think any parent would say, they could use some additional support,” said SUNY Cortland head coach Brian Tobin.
Trent and Destani were adopted by Gene and Sara Friend, who already had a son of their own, Michael. But the happy story took a terrible turn when Gene died of cancer in the fall of 2010 and Sara passed away 15 months later.
“We’re getting along as we go…working out our own problems…learning. It’s going to be a learning experience throughout,” Trent Friend said.
“They all of a sudden felt like they weren’t going to have parents,” said Fundraiser organizer Julie Marion. "So Michael adopted them and he is the legal guardian. That’s why he adopted them so they would still have family.”
Marion, who met the Friends through the Sea Dragons program is pulling together a fundraiser and keeping a promise to Sara Friend that she would do something to help out the family.
“They’ve got an older sibling taking care of them and financially it’s going to be tough so every little bit helps and every little bit makes a difference,” Tobin said.
They’ve reached out to the New York Jets, who train at Cortland State in the summer. The team has responded with a ball signed by the 2010 AFC Championship Game team and one signed by this year’s team. Both of the footballs are being raffled to raise money.
“It just makes me feel like there's people out there that care,” Trent said.
You can still buy a raffle ticket at participating Cortland businesses for a chance to win one of the autographed Jets football s . The drawing is Tuesday. The second Jets football will be raffled off in October. Local businesses selling the raffle tickets include: Central City Bar and Grill, Central Hair Studio, Dasher's, Hairy Tony's and Hyde's Diner.
Donations can also be made to the “Friend Benefit” at Summit Federal Credit Union in Cortland. Make checks out to "The Friend Benefit" at Summit Federal Credit Union and can be mailed to: 143 Main St., Cortland, N.Y., 13045.