North Tonawanda community standing strong behind Tom Witt

Contributed PhotoTom Witt, a mainstay at North Tonawanda National Little League, looks over signs of well-wishing outside his house in the Lumber City. Witt was diagnosed with liver cancer earlier this month. 

Shannon Witt arrived early at T.K. Murphy Field to make sure the diamond was ready to go, as usual.

What Shannon saw when she arrived was not the usual. It was a display of support and love from her NT Diamond Jaxx players and their families that moved her to tears.

"I'm always the first one there. I always get there first and they were already there and I'm like, 'What are the kids already doing here?' The parents were all there," she said.

"I got to the dugout out and they all have on green jerseys, which is the color for liver cancer awareness. They had our Jaxx logo on the front then when they turned around they their number and where the name goes everybody's jersey said 'Witt' on it."

The jerseys and signs that decorated the dugout we're in support of Shannon's husband, Tom Witt, who was diagnosed with liver cancer on Oct. 5.

Shannon said the outpouring of love and support has warned the hearts of her family. It tells them that North Tonawanda is a wonderful place to live, a place where friends doesn't hesitate to rally around you in tough times.

"It's actually really wonderful," Shannon said, "to think that he has got all of this support, all of these people that actually do care about him. It's wonderful to have that. Everyone is reaching out to see if he needs anything, it's wonderful."

A long time fixture in the North Tonawanda National Little League, Tom Witt has been more than a coach and a board member.

He has shown himself to be a kind, caring, loving man who truly cares about every child he has met.

He didn't care so much about the wins and championships. His victories have been measured in the smiles of kids he has worked with, smiles that come from taking pride in getting better, making new friends and simply enjoying the pure beauty of the game.

Or welcoming gestures of support like when he went over to a girl who was sitting alone during softball tryouts.

"Tom had went over on the bleachers and sat with the daughter and asked, 'Why do you like softball? Why do you want to play softball?" Shannon recalled. "Just in general engaging with the daughter and the mother said that was the most engagement she's ever had with a coach that actually cares about her as a person, not just as a player."

That's the man NT has embraced so dearly.

And that's the man Shannon fell in love with after meeting him by chance through, you guessed it, baseball.

"I met him because my nephew played baseball down at Babe Ruth and I was looking for a better opportunity for him," Shannon said. "I reached out to Tom because it was the first year he was running a fall baseball program."

Shannon said she and Tom just kind of hit it off. That was 10 years ago. Two years later, they were married.

A graduate of North Tonawanda HS, Tom works for the district as the assistant manager of transportation.

Tom's co-workers have been among the strongest voices in the Witts' network of support. In fact, they recently surprised Shannon and Tom with a bevy of hand-written get-well signs at their home, mostly from students. Once again, it was a display of love that put a tear in their eyes and a smile on their faces.

The Lumber City is rallying around Tom Witt financially as well as two benefits are planned to help with medical costs.

A chowder sale is being held at the NTNLL field at 11 a.m. Nov. 13. Prices will be $3 a bowl, $8 a quarter and will run until they are sold out.

A second event will take place on Dec. 4 at Gratwick Hose at 110 Ward Road.

Running from noon to 5 p.m., the benefit will feature a 50/50, basket raffle and auction. The $20 admission includes beer, pop and a sheet of basket raffle tickets.

For more details or to donate items, call Esther Salasavage at 716-531-3708.

Shannon said that for those who wish to reach out to Tom, he has access to his cell phone and Facebook page and checks them during the course of the day.

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