Bills players seek to inspire change with day of community outreach

Posted Oct 18, 2017

Understanding the importance of building lasting relationships both on and off the field, the Bills recently took action. On their day off, Tuesday, Oct. 17, players came together to serve the community’s youth through five different events.

It starts with one person doing the right thing.

It starts with one person making a difference.

The Buffalo Bills players have truly embraced what it means to lead by example and to be a team. Understanding the importance of building lasting relationships both on and off the field, the Bills recently took action. On their day off, Tuesday, Oct. 17, players came together to serve the community’s youth through five different events.

As explained by Bills veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, the day of service was just one plan the players have put in place to inspire change.

“As a team, we have decided to engage our community in two ways,” said Alexander. “First, on Tuesday, October 17, we plan to go out into the community as an organization and serve Buffalo’s young people through five different community relations events. Our hope is that this is not just a feel-good moment, but from these events, relationships are birthed and are continued into the future and become sustainable for the men who come behind us. Secondly, we plan to meet with local public and political officials about how as players, we can help change and improve legislation and institutional culture.”

Paying visits to the Belle Center, Northwest Buffalo Community Center, Matt Urban Hope Center, Hennepin Community Center, as well as the ADPRO Sports Training Center for the Crucial Catch Family Fun Night, the players made memories, created lasting friendships and touched the lives of everyone they met.

“Yesterday, [Oct. 17] was awesome, it was really a team initiative,” said Alexander. “We took a step forward as far as being proactive about making change. Yesterday we really had a team function. We hit up five different venues – 42 guys spread around the city of Buffalo, serving and giving back and really building relationships that are going to go on past what we started yesterday, so I was very happy with it.”

Alexander who made stops at the Belle Center and the Crucial Catch Family Fun Night, was grateful to be able to use his platform to make an impact.

“It’s always awesome to go back and just be a part of the process of helping them realize their potential and ability to rise above their circumstance,” said Alexander. “Whether that’s giving some kind words, just hanging out with them, maybe some words of wisdom, or just giving them my story. I came up in a similar situation, in the inner city of Oakland, where resources were scarce. I had people step in and fill the gap for me. So, to be able to come full circle in my lifetime…and have a platform to be able to serve is truly a blessing.”

At the Belle Center – a nonprofit organization which offers educational, social and community building services to youth, senior citizens and families in the Western New York area, Alexander was joined by his teammates including linebacker Preston Brown, defensive end Eric Lee, tight end Khari Lee, wide receiver Jordan Matthews, guard John Miller and fullback Mike Tolbert. While on the visit, the Bills got to participate in a variety of after school activities with a group of youngsters. They played games, helped with arts and crafts, interacted with a middle school girls mentoring program and took part in the Soccer for Success program for students in grades three through five.

As the day progressed, Bills players including wide receiver Zay Jones, linebacker Matt Milano, center Adam Redmond, linebacker Zach Vigil and cornerback Shareece Wright, made their way to the Northwest Buffalo Community Center where they joined adolescents aged 6-13 in several fun activities. The kids were thrilled to have some of their role models join them for basketball, art projects, air hockey and pool.

“I love kids,” explained Zay Jones when reflecting on his decision to go to the Northwest Buffalo Community Center. “I love spending time with kids. It’s awesome – I think it’s [one of the] best forms of giving back. Just seeing young children smile and make their day is a wonderful opportunity.”

For veteran Shareece Wright, the visit hit close to home.

“I remember growing up at a community center,” said Wright. “It’s what I did as a kid to stay out of trouble, so I figured I’d come to see how I could relate to these kids. I think it means a lot to them to show them that professional athletes care about them. [To] make them feel special [and] feel important, because they are.”

Meanwhile, over at the Matt Urban Hope Center, Bills players including safety Jordan Poyer, wide receiver Kaelin Clay, defensive end Ryan Davis, defensive end Jerry Hughes, running back Taiwan Jones, defensive end Shaq Lawson, running back LeSean McCoy, tackle Jordan Mills, quarterback Tyrod Taylor, defensive tackle Adolphus Washington, quarterback Joe Webb and defensive tackle Jerel Worthy, spent quality time with a group of children and teenagers that visit the center each day after school. During the visit, the Bills got to test their basketball skills as well as get to know the kids.

“It was so cool yesterday,” said LeSean McCoy when reflecting on the visit. “Just seeing how happy the kids were meant a lot to me because I come from those same areas. You never really see NFL players or guys you idolize or see on TV so to see that, was super cool. I know it meant a lot to them; it meant a lot to me. You look at the things that mean the most like that because you can impact some else’s life.”

For defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, safety Micah Hyde, tight end Logan Thomas, defensive end Cedric Thornton and defensive end Eddie Yarbrough, their evening spent at the Hennepin Community Center proved one to remember. There to show support and to watch a Police Athletic League female basketball game, the Bills players made the most of the visit.

“It means a lot to the community to have Buffalo Bills players out here, but it’s big for us,” said Micah Hyde. “A lot of us aren’t from here and to be able to come out and support people here in Buffalo, whoever it may be, it’s an awesome feeling. I can tell you this, being somewhere else and coming here, you really experience the family atmosphere. I’ve said this probably 100 times since I’ve been here, but it’s awesome to feel like I’m a part of a family and that’s how this community feels.”

Executive Director of the Police Athletic League of Buffalo Nekia Kemp, weighed in on the impact this type of interaction has on the community.

“It’s very important for children to have something to do outside of school hours,” said Kemp. “I think anytime the community can come out and support kids not being on the street, not being in trouble and doing something positive…is positive. I think they’re proud at this moment. They’re very excited and very appreciative of the Bills coming out today.”

Knowing that support can go a long way for those going through a tough time, Bills players Lorenzo Alexander, safety Colt Anderson, linebacker Preston Brown, tackle Dion Dawkins, fullback Patrick DiMarco, guard Vladimir Ducasse, long snapper Reid Ferguson, kicker Stephen Hauschka, tight end Ryan O’Malley, guard Will Pericak, quarterback Nathan Peterman, punter Colton Schmidt, tight end Keith Towbridge, center Eric Wood and defensive tackle Kyle Williams, went to the ADPRO Sports Training Center for another unforgettable event. Teaming up with ECMC for Crucial Catch this week, the Bills hosted a Family Fun Night for families from Stones Buddies and the PUNT Foundation to raise awareness for pediatric cancer. The special evening featured a variety of games and activities for the families and gave the players an opportunity to connect with the guests.

Longtime Bills center Eric Wood, whose foundation seeks to assist children in need in the Buffalo and Louisville, Kentucky communities, was overjoyed to take part.

“Through my foundation, I’ve got to meet a lot of these families,” said Wood. “It’s so awesome to see familiar faces. The joy that these kids have is unbelievable. The perspective that you gain on a night like tonight is just incredible.”

Using their platform as professional athletes to make positive change, the Bills players will continue to do their part in the community.  

“I think it can get bigger and better,” said LeSean McCoy when discussing the team’s community involvement. "Let’s think together, let’s be on the same team. That’s what it’s ultimately about.”