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Broncos legend donates signed jersey to benefit Firestone explosion victims

DENVER – Broncos legend Randy Gradishar is donating one of his “Orange Crush” jerseys to help raise money for the victims of the deadly home explosion in Firestone.

On April 17, Erin and Mark Martinez’ home exploded. Erin suffered severe injuries and burns. Mark and his brother-in-law Joey Irwin both died in the explosion.

It was determined that an abandoned flow line from a nearby gas well was running underneath their home. It was never disconnected, capped or turned off. Somehow, the line was cut and odorless unrefined natural gas was seeping into the Martinez’ basement.

When Mark and Joey lit the pilot light on a water heater, the home exploded.

“[Erin] lost everything. She doesn’t even own a fork,” friend Julie Pasillas told FOX31.

Pasillas and a few other members of the community decided to organize a benefit with all of the money going directly to Erin. On Sunday, she asked FOX31 viewers for help collecting donated items for a silent auction that will be part of the benefit.

Gradishar was watching.

“Well, I’m a Fox news fan and so seeing the Problem Solvers and also a while back saw [coverage of the explosion] on the news,” Gradishar said, “it’s a tragedy.”

He says he immediately knew he wanted to help.

“Well, being a former Bronco and having an extra jersey, I just decided well, that’s one way that I can contribute to help this family,” he said.

He autographed the linebacker-sized jersey and a player photo.

“It’s just a real blessing for me to be able to help out,” he said. “Hopefully somebody will spend a couple dollars to buy it.”

The #53 jersey will likely fetch much more money than Gradishar modestly suggested.

Randy Gradishar played ten seasons with the Denver Broncos in the 1970’s and 1980’s as a linebacker. He was a key member of the original “Orange Crush”, widely considered one of the best defenses in NFL history.

“It’s a part of Bronco history and I’m just glad to be a part of that,” he said.

FOX31 delivered the donation to event organizers Tuesday afternoon as a surprise.

“I am so impressed with this! I am so happy!” Teresa Cravotta said.

The signed jersey brought tears to her eyes. She says she is now saving her money to try and win the item in the auction for Mark and Erin’s 11-year-old son.

“The minute I saw this I said, oh my gosh, I have to win this for that boy,” she said.

Everything was lost in the explosion, including sentimental sports memorabilia Mark and his son collected together.

“I know that was a big thing with him and Mark with the Broncos and Rockies,” Cravotta said.

No matter who wins Gradishar’s jersey, all of the money will go to help the Martinez family get back on its feet.

“Thank you guys very much. You guys have been so awesome to us,” Cravotta said. “It puts faith back in the world, it really does.”

The Martinez-Irwin Benefit will be held on July 22 in Firestone. There will be a car show from 11-3 p.m. followed by a spaghetti dinner and silent auction from 4-8 p.m.