From Newfane to the Tokyo Olympic Games – a small town is rallying behind Team USA athlete, Newfane High School alum

(WIVB) – Newfane High School alum Brian Irr is representing Team USA in the Tokyo Summer Olympics for karate – and the Newfane Alumni Association is showing their “Panther Pride” in support.

This summer’s Olympics will be the first to include karate. Irr is the first Team USA athlete to qualify in the sport’s kumite discipline.

To support him, the Newfane Alumni Association is asking residents of Newfane – and anywhere – to take pictures of their lawn signs, flags,, banners, and other decor, and post them to the Newfane Alumni Association Facebook page with the hashtag #NAABrianInTokyo.

The goal is to get 6,464 – the amount of miles from Newfane to Tokyo.

“We want Brian to know that we’re thinking of him, even though he doesn’t live here anymore, a lot of his teachers still teach, a lot of his friends still live in the community, and we’re thinking about him and are very proud of him,” said Jill Keys, president of the Newfane Alumni Association.

Lara MacFarlane, 2nd vice president of the Newfane Alumni Association, graduated with Irr in 2006.

“He’s worked so hard – he’s been practicing and doing karate since we were kids,” MacFarlane said. “He’s really lived and breathed his goals and met them, and we want our students to see that and know they can do it too.”

The idea to form the Newfane Alumni Association started last fall, MacFarlane added.

“Some of the kids were kind of depressed because of COVID and not having the opportunities that other classes got in a typical year,” she said. “They were probably thinking ‘I’m just from a small town and I can’t go as far as I think’ and that couldn’t be more wrong.”

So they reached out to Newfane’s pool of alumni and found many are doing interesting things, on different paths and in different occupations, MacFarlane said.

“Brian couldn’t be any more proof that you can come from a tiny town and really make it and prove yourself on a world stage,” MacFarlane said. “That’s exactly what he’s doing, and we couldn’t be more proud.”

Anyone is welcome to participate in the challenge to support Irr as he heads to Tokyo – just use the hashtag.

Kaley Lynch is a digital reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of her work here.

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