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Oxford Pennant's weekend sales to benefit Arno family; 25K raised so far

A person with long brown hair wearing a brown jacket and blue hat holds up a "Buffalo Forever" pennant in front of their face. The pennant is red with blue and white lettering and details. It is winter outside and there are brick buildings in the background.
Courtesy Oxford Pennant
A person holds up a "Buffalo Forever" Oxford Pennant outside of their manufacturing shop in winter. Oxford Pennant's retail shop neighbors the building that was destroyed in the March 1 fire that killed Buffalo Firefighter Jason Arno.

At Oxford Pennant, their goal – and tagline – has been to “celebrate everything.”

“Celebrate everything comes from the idea and from the sense that nobody really needs a decorative felt flag in their life," said Oxford Pennant co-owner Dave Horesh. “Buying a felt flag is an act of whimsy unto itself. And so the idea with Oxford Pennant is to use this medium to celebrate the things that are important to you sports, friendship, places, whatever.”

And yet the Buffalo-based manufacturer has also made themselves known to respond in the moments you don’t celebrate. The darkest days, like COVID-19, May 14, and the Christmas Blizzard.

“I think all of us, all 50 of us, at Oxford Pennant have gotten acclimated to channeling that kind of anxious pit in your stomach feeling into something productive and constructive," Horesh said.

“It's become a muscle that's become quite strong for us. Anytime something like this has happened, we've really tried to respond by raising money. We have a company plow, so when there's catastrophic snow events we go out with the company plow and help people dig out.”

But this time, the tragedy struck even closer to home. Oxford Pennant is located in the 700 block of Main Street – a tight knit block of businesses, and one that was shaken by the devastating March 1 fire that killed Buffalo Firefighter Jason Arno.

“I think everybody at our company feels a great deal of sadness and grief for the fireman who died. And I think that's been the hardest part, the proximity to it, our team being there, seeing the fire start seeing it escalate. My business partner and I have been running our business on that block for a decade," Horesh said.

Horesh says he’s been reflecting on that sacrifice Arno made.

“The loss of a loved one is just irreplaceable. The person, Jason Arno, was a father and a friend and a husband. And I think, personally, I've felt that. He was 37 years old. I'm turning 37 next week. He had a three-year-old daughter, I have a four-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter. This is somebody that I bet if if we had come across one another in the community, we might have been friendly with one another," Horesh said. "And you see yourself in that situation, you think, 'Well, what would be the best thing for the family?' And trying to find a way to shed some light to surround them with warmth.”

Ultimately – Oxford Pennant decided they’ll be donating all profits, of all sales on their website through Sunday at midnight to the Arno family. They’ll write and deliver a check on Monday.

Horesh said his team feels Arno saved their lives.

“They really felt like Jason Arno died defending them and defending our business and protecting them as individuals and making sure that they were safe. And it's never really felt that feeling before as a business leader and as a friend," Horesh said. "And so you try to channel them to something productive. And so in this way, we really feel that we owe him a debt of gratitude, and his family.”

To participate in the fundraiser, purchase anything on https://oxfordpennant.com/ before midnight Sunday.

Emyle Watkins is an investigative journalist covering disability for WBFO.