The Buffalo Bills came out in full force on November 30th to support the Food Bank of Western New York and Sports Illustrated Writer Peter King's donation of food through a lost wager with Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco.
Ten Bills players including running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, wide receiver Lee Evans, linebackers Paul Posluszny, Arthur Moats, Akin Ayodele and Jammie Kirlew, defensive ends Spencer Johnson and Ko Quaye, and offensive lineman Ed Wang teamed with the Buffalo Jills Cheerleaders, Billy Buffalo, Bills staff led by Bills CEO Russ Brandon, Head Coach Chan Gailey's wife Laurie, player and coaches spouses and Food Bank volunteers to help load food into vehicles of 400 needy families in Western New York.
A tractor-trailer full of food was brought to Buffalo and the distribution was made possible by King and his readers. When Mr. Ralph Wilson, Bills owner, heard that King chose Buffalo as one of the cities to donate the food to, Wilson matched the donation to show his appreciation.
The sponsorship by King is a result of a wager he made with Feed The Children supporter, Chad Ochocinco. When King lost the wager on whether or not former Bills wide receiver Terrell Owens would become a teammate of Ochocinco, the writer agreed to run a half-marathon and give a portion of donations from his readers to Feed The Children. King chose Cleveland and Buffalo as the cities to benefit from the donations.
Feed The Children is a Christian, international, nonprofit relief organization with headquarters in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, that delivers food, medicine, clothing and other necessities to individuals, children and families who lack these essentials due to famine, war, poverty or natural disasters.
The Bills players were happy to lend a hand.
"To get huge donations from Peter (King) and of course Mr. Wilson matching it, it's great to be a part of that," said Jackson. "All of the players appreciate being able to help."
"Seeing some of the families that are being helped put into perspective what's going on in Buffalo," said Pozluszny. "To load up cars with food, wish people well and interact with families, and then to hear them give us words of encouragement for the way we've played lately...that is pretty special and made us feel pretty good."
The distribution was the latest stop on Feed The Children's Americans Feeding Americans Caravan. The caravan has helped over 170,000 families across the country.
The Food Bank of WNY identified the recipient families in advance.
One recipient arrived on a bicycle and Lee Evans helped tie the food down so the person could ride off. Other families without transportation were driven by volunteers to the Food Bank.
Each family received a 25-pound box of food, a 10-pound box of essentials and a box of Avon products. The items are designed to help a family for up to one week.
It was, at times, an emotional scene at the Food Bank. Some families were overwhelmed with joy when they received the food from the Bills players.
One lady got out of her vehicle with tears in her eyes, thanked everyone within earshot, hugged every player that was helping her, and then drove off waving and yelling, "Go Bills!"
Another person, a father driving his entire family in an old van, was thrilled when Posluszny greeted his son and asked him how he was doing. The son was so shy that he said nothing, but a big smile across his face said it all.
Jackson and his teammates loaded the heavy boxes of food, but they also shared the human spirit with each family that pulled their car up for the donation.
Jackson said, "Any time you have a person's face light up when you give them something, it definitely makes you appreciate the things you have in life."
More than 40 percent of children living in Buffalo are considered impoverished. The number of impoverished New York children could fill Ralph Wilson Stadium 12 times.
"We are helping 400 families thanks to Feed the Children, the Bills and most importantly Mr. King," said Marylou Borowiak, Food Bank of WNY president and CEO. "The best part of this donation is we have the truck load from Feed the Children, and on top of everything we have Mr. Wilson's donation that will help many more families. We have 40,000 children we take care of, so this is just a dent into our Western New York region."
"We applaud Pete King's efforts in helping us to put a spotlight on the growing problem of hunger in this country," said Tony Sellars, Feed The Children spokesperson.
"It's a great way to start the holidays," said Brandon. "Our players continually give back to the community and we've always been a big supporter of the Food Bank of WNY. This is a special occasion with everything that Peter King has done, and for Mr. Wilson to match this great event and to see all the players out here is very heartwarming."