SOMERS, N.Y. - Matthew Ridgeway, a JV football coach at Somers High School, lost all of his and his daughter’s possessions last Tuesday after an accidental kitchen-fire destroyed their apartment in Harriman. Tallying the dollar value can certainly be done, but expressing the loss in words is quite another thing.
“It’s like getting your heart broken as you lose everything of sentimental value,” Ridgeway attempted to explain.
As much as the fundraiser his players created begins his rebuild, their efforts have put the emotional fallout firmly on the mend.
“I’ve never felt so loved in my life,” said Ridgeway, who is also a boys lacrosse coach and a science teacher at the high school.
Last week, Ridgeway and his daughter, Eva, 6, had gone out and were soon alerted by neighbors that first responders were putting out a fire at their apartment. The fire began because Ridgeway inadvertently turned the stove on as he left. Ridgeway said investigators agree it was an accident. He learned that the fire spread quickly, and between the smoke and water, most everything was ruined.
“It was devastating in so many ways, but mainly to see my daughter crying over all her stuffed animals, artwork and favorite outfits,” he said.
Of course, the fire wasn’t the only thing that spread quickly.
“We heard through emails and the Somers Tuskers Touchdown Club that Coach Ridgeway’s house caught fire and he lost everything,” said linebacker Chris DiCintio. “We wanted to do everything we could, because he’s one of the nicest guys we’ve ever known.”
A group of players went to assistant principal Kevin Guidotti for ideas, and he suggested a GoFundMe page.
“The next period, I took out my laptop and set up the page,” said fullback Nick Vece.
The link was soon making its way around the school and the Somers community.
“We raised $4,500 so far,” said cornerback Anthony Lombardi.
A preoccupied Ridgeway was unaware of his players’ fundraising efforts until a co-worker told him about it.
“A co-worker at the school said, ‘Wait until you see what the kids are doing. It’s going to blow your mind,’” he said.
DiCintio did the honors before the championship game on Saturday night.
“Chris pulled me aside and said, ‘Coach, I just want you to know we love you, and this is what we are doing for you,’” Ridgeway said.
DiCinto said, “He just broke down in tears. It was just a warm and great feeling that we helped our coach.”
Even so, Ridgeway was a little uneasy about appearing back on the sidelines, where he operates the sideline huddle camera. His concern was that he might be a distraction.
“I said I will stay home, but they said absolutely not,” Ridgeway said.
However, the coach did not go unnoticed.
“We just balled and did everything we could for him,” said DiCintio.
While appreciative of the team’s sentiment that they did it for him, he preferred to deflect being the center of attention and gave credit where due.
“Somers is a special place,” he said.
To contribute, visit gofundme.com/raise-for-ridgeway.