Daniel Long didn’t know what to expect when he arrived for a fundraiser in his honor at Fatt Boys Sports Bar in Kalispell on Wednesday evening.
What the senior Flathead High football player found, however, exceeded his wildest dreams.
Several hundred friends, fans and members of the community showed up for the fundraiser, which was organized to raise money for Long, who lost his home and many of his belongings in a fire last month.
“I never would have expected this many people,” Long said. “I knew the team would be here and what not, but some of these people, I don’t even know.”
“The Flathead Valley, they’re just here, gathering, helping someone who needs it.”
As the sun shined over the smoky Flathead Valley, supporters lined up under several orange and black tents for free barbecue, sides and drinks provided by Fatt Boys and the Braves Touchdown Club.
Flathead head football coach Kyle Samson said he didn’t have any specific attendance or fundraising goal for the event, but he described it as a success as he enjoyed his own meal.
“This is kind of, to me, what high school athletics is about,” Samson said. “I was expecting a big (turnout). I think this kind of exceeds it.”
“Daniel’s super appreciative. I know, me as a coach, (I’m) super appreciative of just the community and all the fans and parents that came out tonight. It’s pretty special.”
The “parking lot pep rally,” as the event was dubbed, was yet another opportunity for the community to support Long and his family just as it has since the blaze occurred.
Nearly $2,500 has been raised for Long since Samson started a fundraiser on GoFundMe.com, a popular crowd-funding website, the day after the fire, and it has been shared on socail media approximately 30 times in the past week. Other donations, such as clothes and furniture, have also continued to pour in even weeks after the fire.
“It seems like it just keeps getting bigger and bigger, which is just awesome,” Samson said.
One of the most surprising things to Long is that much of the help he’s received has come from those he doesn’t even know.
“I was in Urgent Care getting my physical (for football), and a guy walked up to me and was like, ‘Hey, did I read about you in the newspaper?’” Long said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I think so.’ He handed me some money and just said, ‘Go buy you something nice.’”
The same enthusiasm and willingness to help was on display Wednesday night, and Long was once again overwhelmed by the support.
“There are tons of people walking up, like, ‘What do you need? Tell me something you need, and I’ll get it for you.’ There’s been a lot of help like that.”
Samson said anyone still looking for ways to help the Long family should contact him or Flathead High School.