1. Leonard Johnson teaches son life lessons through the Thanksgiving Blitz
Each year, the Buffalo Bills get into the holiday spirit by hosting the Thanksgiving Blitz. The event, which provides Thanksgiving meals to local families, is made possible by generous donations from Bills players and coaches, who are eager to make an impact. Held at the Food Bank of Western New York, over 30 Bills players teamed up with Bills Owner Kim Pegula, Managing Partner & President Russ Brandon, Bills staff members, the Bills Women's Association and volunteers from the Food Bank, to hand out meals to over 500 families.
Grateful for the opportunity to use his platform to help those around him, Bills cornerback Leonard Johnson—a first-time participant and firm believer in the power of giving back—brought his son along. Although he is young, Johnson saw the event as another opportunity to teach his youngster important life lessons and strengthen his character.
"It means a lot [to give back to the community]," said Johnson. "I've been a part of a lot of different organizations and to actually get involved in the community from the position that we hold, is really hands on with the fans and the city and the community of Buffalo – for them to be receiving gifts and turkeys, it takes a lot of pressure off the parents to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I brought my son because I really do want him to get involved in giving back and I believe it starts at a young age. When I was a kid, my mother used to have me go to the nursing home once a month and hand out teddy bears, and I started at that age so I'm going to get him started early too."
Buffalo Bills players, coaches, staff and the Women's Association gave back in a big way this holiday season with help from the Food Bank of WNY.
2. Eric Wood feels the love at annual fundraiser
The Bills family never misses an opportunity to show support for one of their own. On Monday, Nov. 13, at his third annual Flights and Bites event, Bills center Eric Wood was surrounded by his teammates, Bills staff and members of the community. The fun-filled evening, which included live and silent auctions and entertainment from a local band, provided attendees with an opportunity to give back and help children in need. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Eric Wood Fund at Oishei Children's Hospital – a cause that hits home for Wood.
"It's awesome – everyone from the players, to the staff and the Community Relations [Department], everybody is so supportive of my foundation," said Wood. "I'm truly appreciative. This is our third one of these Flights and Bites nights and it's always a good time. This year, hopefully we raise our biggest amount yet and it's all for the kids."
Wood, who was overjoyed by the turnout, also made good on a Tweet that posted weeks before the event. Joining fellow offensive lineman Conor McDermott, Wood took to the mic to sing a popular Garth Brooks song, "Friends in Low Places."
3. Colton Schmidt's special cause
In recognition of the NFL's "My Cause, My Cleats" initiative, Bills punter Colton Schmidt recently teamed up with children that he's been mentoring to help design his game day footwear. Schmidt, who is an ambassador for Classroom Champions, a mentoring program that pairs students with athletes to help them excel, made stops at each of the local classrooms to have the participating kids sign his cleats. Proud to support the cause, Schmidt will show off his cleats on the field during Buffalo's Week 13 game against the Patriots.
4. Lorenzo Alexander's game day gift
While his time in Buffalo has been brief, Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander has already established himself as a leader on the field and in the community. Doing his part to create positive experiences for others, Alexander participates in the Buffalo Bills Player and Coach Community Season Ticket Donation Program. The program, which allows players and coaches to donate tickets to organizations so that they can attend Bills home games, is one that Alexander takes great pride in. Last week, he made it possible for families from TAPS—an organization that supports families of fallen military members—to attend the Salute to Service game.
5. Thurman Thomas to host gift gathering party
Although his football career is behind him, Bills alumnus and Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas continues to make a difference in the city that he spent 12 seasons playing for. To give back to the Western New York Community this holiday season, the Thurman Thomas Family Foundation will host a gift gathering party on Dec. 8. The "First Holiday Bash" will give guests a chance to donate unwrapped gifts, which will be given to local families. Featuring live music, auctions, raffles and surprise celebrity guests, the bash is sure to be a good time. For those interested in purchasing a ticket, please visit here.