Saturday, Mary Wilson and the Buffalo Bills celebrated the eighth annual Western New York Girls in Sports program. The platform, founded by Mary Wilson, wife of Buffalo Bills Owner Ralph Wilson Jr., began in 2006 with the goal of enriching young girl's lives with sports.
"It's become more than I ever expected," said Wilson. "For many of the girls, it's their first time attending, many of them could have come a total of eight times. I'm hoping that even a little bit makes an impact."
The WNY Girls in Sports program, hosted in partnership with the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County and the Girl Scout Council of WNY invites 250 Buffalo Public School girls ages 9-12 from "Closing the Gap" schools to the Buffalo Bills Healthy Zone Fieldhouse for an afternoon of sports.
Girls rotate in stations around the Bills Healthy Zone Fieldhouse trying old sports and learning new ones, from soccer, golf, track, volleyball, and tennis, to basketball, agility exercises, Double Dutch and Zumba.
Wilson, who has always been active in sports began the program to teach adolescents the life lessons that sports offers. Mary learned the structure sports provides at an early age. At age 60, she was the top ranked tennis player in the country. Today, she loves to share her passion with the girls, helping them learn core qualities such as discipline, sportsmanship and working as a team.
"Sports impact your whole life," Wilson told buffalobills.com. "Learning how to work together… there are a lot of times you're going to lose in life and you need to be able to move forward from there. There's no doubt that for me sports has given me more than I have given it, and this is my way to pay it back."
The program coincides with the NFL and Buffalo Bills PLAY 60 initiative, encouraging kids to get out and play at least 60 minutes per day.
"Whether it's running or going to the gym, sports makes a difference, and affects you in a positive way," said Wilson.
And Western New York Girls in Sports wouldn't be what it is without the volunteers. The program has gathered a vast following of community organizations eager to help out. This Saturday, over 80 volunteers from the University at Buffalo, Canisius College, Medaille College, Upstate NY Jr. Golf – First Tee of WNY, Niagara Frontier Jr. Olympic Volleyball Club, Buffalo Soccer Club, Girls on the Run, United Way, and members of the Buffalo Bills Strength and Conditioning Department attended the event to encourage the young girls.
The annual WNY Girls in Sports clinic takes place twice per year, once in the spring and once in the fall.