BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Family and friends of Buffalo firefighter Jason Arno are coming together to celebrate his life and legacy by helping others.

James Fierro remembers his best friend, “Jay,” as a family man with a big personality and even bigger heart.

“He wasn’t the loud person in a group of people, but everybody loved him because he had very personal one-on-one connections with everyone he met,” Fierro said.

The two became friends in childhood, growing up just blocks apart in North Buffalo. Fierro even served as officiant in Arno’s wedding to his wife, Sarah.

“We would have talks and it would start small, and all of the sudden we’re making plans to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in a year,” Fierro told News 4. “That’s the type of person he was. Nothing was small, everything was big, and he loved to bring everybody along with him.”

Arno was killed on March 1 while battling a four-alarm fire on Main Street in Downtown Buffalo. His group of close friends were left devastated.

“It’s sad that tragedy does it, but it’s also brought the rest of us much closer together…[that’s] kind of how the foundation was formed,” Fierro said.

The Firefighter Arno Memorial Foundation was created by Arno’s loved ones for Western New York’s first responders. Fierro said there are three main things they plan to do: provide support to those who are struggling financially after an injury on the job, form scholarships for children of first responders and provide mental health support.

The inaugural fundraising event will be held at Holidays Sports Bar in West Seneca, complete with a cookout and volleyball tournament. There will also be a live performance by Nerds Gone Wild, raffle prizes and a beer tent. It’s set for August 27 – a special day for Arno and his family.

“That day was chosen because it’s Jay’s birthday; he would have been 38. It’s really important for us to celebrate his birthday,” Fierro said. “It’s going to be a huge party because that’s exactly what Jay deserves.”

Tickets are pre-sale only, and people must register by July 31 to participate in the tournament. Information on how to purchase tickets or to donate can be found here.

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Marlee Tuskes is an anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here and follow her on Twitter.