Bills honor local hero who saved 24 people during Buffalo blizzard with Super Bowl tickets


A local Buffalo man who was credited with saving 24 people and finding them shelter in an area primary school during last month’s deadly blizzard is now going to the Super Bowl.

Jay Withey, a 27-year-old mechanic who braved deadly winter conditions to save two dozen people in Western New York, was rewarded for his heroic acts on Friday when Bills legend Thurman Thomas visited him at work to present him with two tickets for this year’s Super Bowl at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Fordham Avenue, center, and the 1901 Pan-American Exposition neighborhood of Buffalo, N.Y. is coated in a blanket of snow after the blizzard, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022.
(Derek Gee /The Buffalo News via AP)

“We love you. We know what you did on Christmas Eve was very heroic and you’re our hero,” Thomas said. “The Bills and Highmark want to present to you with these tickets to go watch the Super Bowl.”


“Now the hard part starts, who you gonna take?” Thomas added with a laugh.

Withey’s odyssey began on Dec. 23 when his truck got stuck on the road, and he was unable to find shelter in any nearby homes.

“I walked to the houses to see if I could find shelter, any house that had lights on. I had $500 that I was offering, to sleep on their floor,” Withey told WBEN radio. “Unfortunately, no one allowed him to stay in their home.

With two strangers in his car, Withey remained there until he finally ran out of fuel. He then spotted a school where he broke in. But instead of staying in the shelter, where there was power and food, he went out into the hazardous conditions and brought back a total of 24 people.

Jay Withey, 27, is pictured center, surrounded by some of the people he helped find shelter from the deadly winter storm in Western New York in December.
(Cheektowaga Police Department)


“I’m terribly sorry about breaking the school window [and] for breaking in the kitchen,” Withey wrote in a note he left behind.

“Got stuck at 8 p.m. Friday and slept in my truck with two strangers. Just trying not to die. There were 7 elderly people also stuck and out of fuel. I had to do it to save everyone and get them shelter and food and a bathroom.”

Withey told Thomas that he was shocked at the amount of people who had reached out to him after he was identified as the man behind “Merry Christmas Joe.”

“I can’t believe the amount of reach out I got. I got thank you letters from Australia – I can’t believe how far it got but it was wild,” he said.

A National Guard truck drives past a police cruiser on a snowy street in Buffalo, N.Y., on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022.
(Joseph Cooke/The Buffalo News via AP)


“I’m speechless, honestly. This is wild,” he added of the Super Bowl surprise.

According to WIVB, the death toll from last month’s blizzard has risen to 44.

The Bills, through their foundation, stepped up by donating $100,000 to blizzard relief efforts. The NFL Foundation and one of the Bills’ main sponsors, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York, matched the donation, bringing the total to $300,000.

Fox News’ Chris Pandolfo and The Associated Press contributed to this report.