Buffalo Bills fans of all ages gathered at Ralph Wilson Stadium before Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks to lend a helping hand to fellow members of the Buffalo community, donating a record $218,000 at the eleventh annual Fan Food Drive to benefit the Food Bank of Western New York.
Buffalo Jills cheerleaders, Student Leaders, Food Bank staff and Mary Wilson, wife of Bills owner Ralph Wilson and chairperson of the event, teamed with the Bills Women's Association to collect non-perishable food items and monetary donations at all RWS gates.
The record monetary donation was due in large part to a $100,000 donation made at the gate by an East Amherst couple who wished to remain anonymous. Ralph and Mary Wilson matched the record donation and Bills local partner Tops Friendly Markets matched the non-perishable food donations pound for pound.
Wilson described why the Fan Food Drive is so important to the Wilson family and the entire Western New York community.
"Because a lot of people work really hard and they struggle," Wilson said. "They work hard, they're very conscientious people and sometimes they just can't make it. And so the Food Bank is there. It's a very important institution in every community."
Bills fan Ed Reich, a Williamsville native, said he gives each year because he supports the cause of the Food Bank.
"I just believe that a lot of these things are very good," Reich said. "These organizations are good and people need them. Especially with the homeless and people who don't have food, they need them."
Wilson said the Food Drive allows her to meet fans from all walks of life. She said a particular fan who participated in a previous Food Drive left a lasting impression on her.
"A woman walked up to me with her 17 year old son," Wilson said. "She said I just wanted you to know that I was one of those people. When my son was four of five I had a hard time and I needed the Food Bank and the Food Bank was there for me. So obviously her life had turned around. At one point in her life, she needed help," she said.
Bills fan Mike DiFabio said he donated because it gives him a chance to help others as he counts his own blessings.
"I've got a good job," DiFabio said. "I've never known what it's like to not have enough to eat, to actually be hungry. No one should have to know that feeling."