Former Bills guard Joe DeLamielleure was known for opening holes for running backs during his Hall of Fame career. Now in his latest charitable effort DeLamielleure will take on perhaps his greatest physical challenge as he tries to raise money to open up an orphanage in Matamoros, Mexico.
DeLamielleure and his two former college teammates at Michigan State, John Shinsky and Eljay Bowron will embark on a bicycle trek from East Lansing, Michigan to the site of the orphanage in Mexico to raise the money needed to complete construction and provide the necessary resources to support the abandoned, abused and neglected children of that region.
"I'm really passionate about helping the underdog, trying to help people that can't help themselves," DeLamielleure said. "And these kids can't help themselves. It's impossible. So if we can make life better for them and get them educated and feed them and make them feel like better human beings, then I'm all for it."
The bike tour to benefit "The City of the Children" orphanage was the brainchild of Shinsky, who hopes the money raised through per-mile donations as well as short and long term donations will give them what they need to provide opportunities to these less fortunate children.
"John was an orphan and we'd talk about those things as young men," said DeLamielleure of Shinsky. "I ended up adopting two kids later in life. I have four of my own and then I ended up adopting two Korean boys. So I kind of took what John said to heart back then."
"I'd vowed early in my life to help orphans because of the great support my foster family provided to me after I left the orphanage," said Shinsky.
Shinsky, who has a PhD in special education, has been teaching for 35 years, while Bowron is the former director of the United States Secret Service.
"They're phenomenal people," said DeLamielleure of his former college teammates. "I've been working with John on the orphanage for a long time, about six or seven years."
The bike trek is ambitious as the three men will cover 2,000 miles in 18 days from Michigan to Mexico. With all three men in their late 50's they know it will be a demanding journey.
"I know this," said DeLamielleure. "There aren't two tougher guys, and I'm including guys that I played with in the NFL, than those guys. We're all training to do it, so we're going to do it. But it is a challenge no doubt. I'm telling you we're training hard to do this and it's important. Knowing those two guys like I do, there's no way we won't make it."
DeLamielleure has been cycling 30 miles a day for the past two or three weeks with push ups and jump rope training mixed in for good measure. The bike trek will depart from Michigan State University on Sat. April 25.
Needing to bike just over 110 miles per day over the 18 days to make it a success, the three men have mapped out the journey with some days requiring longer runs than others.
Their progress can be tracked at the group's website, www.orphanagefundraiser.com where supporters can also make donations.
The longest one day stretch is scheduled for Day 16 of the 18-day trip as they're to travel 134 miles from Bay City, Texas to Corpus Christi, Texas. But DeLamielleure and his former teammates are determined to make the bike trek a success.
"This is a challenge, and that's why we're doing it," said DeLamielleure. "This is a gut check, but we're really looking forward to it. If I can't pedal across, I'm going to jog across. I'm going to do it."