By Kitty Merrill
How did you spend the snow day last Friday? While families across the East End were hunkered down, snuggled up, and enjoying a blizzard-prompted day off, the Ovalles family was out in the polar blast with their shovels, helping neighbors in Sag Harbor. In all, they dug snow at the homes of 15 seniors in the community.
On Thursday night the family – Anny and Elido Enriquez, and their children Gizel, nine, and Giovanni, 16 – ventured out to 7-Eleven for some hot chocolate. On their way, they came upon a 91-year-old man trying to shovel his walkway. "He has no family here and lives with the little money he gets. He stated that people think everyone in the Hamptons is rich but that's not the case, and I thought how many more seniors are having the same problem?" Anny explained. "That's when we decided to put the ad on Facebook."
Anny posted an ad on the Bonac Yard Sale page that same night, offering to shovel snow for any Sag Harbor senior who needed help. Posted at around 9 PM, it read, "If you see the elderly in this weather shoveling stop and help. Free snow removal. 70+ yrs old. Sorry Sag Harbor only."
The post garnered over 130 likes, plus requests and praise. "You are awesome for helping others. Really awesome," read one comment. "My faith in humanity has been restored! Bless you for your extreme kindness," read another.
The family shoveled out the nonagenarian Thursday night and spent Friday helping another 13 elderly Harborites. On Saturday, they fulfilled one last request for help.
"We have too many elderly people living here with no help and have too many scammers trying to charge them an insane amount for a little walkway and that's when they try to do it themselves," said Anny, who is a medical professional and volunteer for the local ambulance corps. Initially reluctant to be interviewed, she said, "I just do it to help not to get fame."
She agreed, however, that her family's effort might inspire others to take up their shovels and help neighbors the next time the snow falls.
Winter storm Grayson dumped over a foot of snow across the East End on Thursday. Heavy snowfall was problematic, but even worse were record-breaking cold temperatures with below zero wind chills that followed on Friday and Saturday.
Last winter, the BBC reported on a study conducted by researchers at the Nationwide Children's Hospital. Data in the study from 1990 to 2006 revealed about 100 people die shoveling snow every year. During that timeframe there were an average of 11,500 shoveling-related injuries reported.