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Buffalo Bills Foundation announces Community Honors award winners | 2023

Bills Community All-Star S Damar Hamlin and Junior Community QB award winner Jonathan Evans during Buffalo Bills Community Honors Dinner, December 05, 2023 at Wayland Brewing Company in Orchard Park, New York.
Bills Community All-Star S Damar Hamlin and Junior Community QB award winner Jonathan Evans during Buffalo Bills Community Honors Dinner, December 05, 2023 at Wayland Brewing Company in Orchard Park, New York.

Here are this year's honorees:

2023 Community Quarterback presented by LECOM: William Arnold

The Buffalo Bills Community Quarterback Award recognizes individuals who exemplify leadership, dedication and commitment to improving and giving back to our local community.

This year's honoree, William Arnold has shown his dedication to the veteran community by helping them find a purpose through beekeeping. Nominated by Veteran's One Stop, Arnold teaches veterans the skills necessary to care for the many bee colonies he has throughout three counties in Western New York.

A veteran himself, Arnold served in the Air Force Reserves from 1984-89. His work has helped veterans find an activity that helps them reintegrate back into their community. He called working with bees "therapeutic" and thanked his wife for "putting up with all the hours I spend with 60,000 of my favorite friends."

2023 Jr. Community Quarterback presented by Alkegen: Jonathan Evans

Jonathan Evans was named this year's Jr. Community Quarterback Award winner because of the positive impact he has made on the Buffalo community through his extensive community service.

Since middle school, Evans has been an active member of the Buffalo Prep Community and volunteers with the Alzheimer's Association of Western New York and Home Beneath Our Feet. He also made significant contributions to the African American Veterans Monument located at the Buffalo and Eric County Naval and Military Park.

After the tragic mass shooting in May 2022, Evans volunteered his time to a community suffering unimaginable loss. He has also worked with St. Luke's Mission of Mercy to help feed the unhoused population.

Evans thanked his parents and older brothers, who were all in attendance, for their support.

2023 Foundation MVP presented by Highmark: Buffalo Go Green

Buffalo Go Green was named the Buffalo Bills Foundation MVP for their outstanding commitment to making Buffalo and the WNY region a more equitable place for people of all races, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. BGG helps serve low-income areas that typically do not have access to healthy fruits and vegetables with community gardens, educational programming and other programs that aim towards helping people throughout WNY develop a healthy lifestyle.

BGG is developing a holistic wellness and agriculture education campus on the East Side, where they will be able to expand their program and its mission.

"I do none of this work without my amazing team," said executive director and CEO Allison DeHonney. "We just love working with both the [Highmark and Buffalo Bills] foundations. They really, really are committed to making our community a better place."

The Buffalo Bills hosted the third annual Community Honors Dinner which celebrated the work being done off the field, all year long in our community by incredible volunteers, organizations, fans as well as former and current players. The event benefited the Buffalo Bills Foundation.

2023 Fan of the Year: Del Reid

What once started as a joke on Twitter has turned into a global phenomenon thanks to the 2023 Fan of the Year, Del Reid.

Bills Mafia is a phrase that is not only synonymous with the passion Bills fans have for their football team, but their community as a whole. Reid, who co-founded Bills Mafia, was surprised by former star receiver Stevie Johnson with the award, including tickets to the 2024 Super Bowl.

The generosity of Bills Mafia has only grown through the years. After the shooting in 2022, Bills Mafia raised over $1 million for the victim's families and response efforts. A little under a year prior when cornerback Tre'Davious White tore his ACL, Bills Mafia raised over $120,000 for the Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana.

"Bills Mafia is known for giving, it's known for love. Being named Fan of the Year is awesome, but to have played a small part in the fact that these 73,000 fellow fans plus everybody outside that they're taking their fandom and turning it into good work in the community, that's the most important thing."

2023 Legend of the Year: Stevie Johnson

The Legend of the Year Award is given to a former player who continues to demonstrate exceptional commitment to community service and philanthropic efforts. Former Bills receiver Stevie Johnson has been a fan favorite since his playing days, serving as a source of positivity for Bills fans even as the team struggled on the field.

Because of his consistent willingness to return to Buffalo and support its community, Johnson is this year's Legend of the Year.

"He does all the right things. He wants to be involved in the community events that are going on," said Fred Jackson, a former Bills running back and teammate of Johnson's.

Recently, Johnson reunited with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to share his latest children's book with an elementary school in Niagara Falls. Johnsons' magnetic personality put a smile on the faces of not only the young children, but the teachers and staff as well.

Johnson was also awarded with a $5,000 check for his foundation Exposure Academy, founded with the mission of developing student-athletes and entrepreneurs through symposium-style training, both on and off the field.

Johnson quoted his wife, who he said received an award yesterday, in his acceptance speech saying, "No matter what it is, if it's positive and if it's progressive, do it."

The Bills star left with his own special saying, "handle business and have fun."

2023 Buffalo Bills Salute to Service Nominee: Reid Ferguson

The NFL's Salute to Service Award represents the league's unwavering dedication to honoring, empowering and connecting with service members, veterans and their families. All 32 teams nominate a player who exemplifies those traits and the overall winner will be recognized at NFL Honors in February.

For the second consecutive year, long snapper Reid Ferguson has been selected as the Buffalo Bills Salute to Service Nominee for his outstanding commitment to supporting the veterans community in Western New York and beyond.

In the offseason, Ferguson accompanied a group of veterans on an Honor Flight to Washington D.C., where they toured the various war memorials. Ferguson made it a point to interact with each veteran and hear their story.

Ferguson thanked special teams coach Matthew Smiley, who served in the Air Force.

"Coach Smiley served in the Air Force during 9/11 and has since over the years shared many stories and lessons with myself and teammates about his service time and a few ways that those lessons can translate to the job we have today."

2023 Buffalo Bills Community All-Star: Damar Hamlin

On Jan. 2 of this year, all eyes were on Monday Night Football – but not because of the playoff-defining matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals.

After collapsing due to cardiac arrest during the game, Bills safety Damar Hamlin has become the face of CPR and AED awareness. Due to the quick employment of CPR and the usage of an AED from the Buffalo Bills training staff, Hamlin returned to the field this season fully healthy.

Since that fateful night, Hamlin's Chasing M's foundation has focused on fostering the development, health and safety of youth through sports activities and CPR and AED education.

Hamlin has taken his foundation across the U.S. and even made a stop in London during the Bills' Week 5 game against Jacksonville.

"It's rare to have a room full of people that's truly driven to create change and wanting to make an impact in the world," Hamlin said. "I always live my life by the quote: 'it's a blessing to be a blessing.' And I've been waiting my entire life to get in a position that I could pass on the blessings that I received back."

Scroll to see photos from Damar Hamlin's Chasing M's Back to School Drive at Front Park.

2023 Buffalo Bills Walter Payton Man of the Year Award Nominee: Dion Dawkins

Considered the most prestigious honor in the NFL, the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award recognizes NFL players who have exhibited excellence on the field and whose passion to make a lasting difference extends beyond the games. For the second season in a row, offensive tackle Dion Dawkins is the Buffalo Bills’ nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Since coming to Buffalo, Dion Dawkins has fallen in love with the city, spending almost every day off giving back to the community. Through his foundation, Dion's Dreamers, Dawkins provides mentorship and support to young people in underserved communities. As a longtime leader on the team, Dawkins is one of the most respected and beloved figures in the locker room.

"I chose to prioritize Buffalo simply because they prioritized connecting with me," Dawkins said. "I want to give nothing but love, love, love, love to the Bills organization from top to bottom. … When you see me, you see that true form of love and I truly walk with God, that's the difference from the other years to now is my relationship with him."

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