The Newfane Alumni Association’s “Brian Irr Challenge” lit up the Olympian’s hometown in red, white and blue in the weeks leading up to the games.
BUFFALO, NY – Drive or stroll down Main Street in Newfane, New York these days and you’ll notice a little more wit in town. Everywhere you go there are flags, placards, T-shirts and even the occasional chants.
That’s it for Brian Irr. Before the karate athlete was an American Olympian, he was a Newfane Panther, and all over his hometown, business owners and neighbors won’t let you forget him.
“There are signs in the city, people have been [using] the hashtag, Brian in Tokyo, âJill Keys told 2 On Your Side.â So I think because you come from a small town, even though you graduated in 2006, you still get so much support. . ”
Keys is the president of the Newfane Alumni Association. The group is trying to get this hashtag, #NAABrianInTokyo, to go viral ahead of Irr’s Olympic debut on August 7.
“It’s about 6,100 miles from here to Tokyo, and we ask ourselves, why don’t we try to get many messages? Let’s show Brian that when he’s in Tokyo and needs with a little nudge of encouragement, he can go check that hashtag, and see that from Newfane New York, western New York, he has a little support from here, âKeys said. “I hope he gives him that little boost of confidence that we are all here for him.”
Brian’s aunts, Chris and Diane Irr, are a part of the effort and couldn’t be prouder.
âIt was exciting, and he’s thrilled the city did this for him,â Diane told 2 On Your Side.
âHe came home a few weeks ago and we had a great family picnic,â Chris said. “He’s just beaming. He has a smile that doesn’t stop.”
The Irrs say that in addition to his achievements in karate, Brian also holds a master’s degree in education and sports medicine from Canisius College. They say he loves children and is a role model for children in his hometown and beyond.
âEvery four years millions of kids go to watch the Olympics, and they have this dream that they could be a part of it,â said Diane. “Brian made it. He made his dream come true. He has already won.”
You can follow the Brian Irr Challenge by following the Newfane Alumni Association on Facebook.