Founding the Western New York Girls in Sports program in 2004, Mary Wilson, wife of Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, was the recipient of a distinguished honor for her community efforts Thursday. Honoring individuals who have made outstanding contributions in the area of Sisterhood and Brotherhood in the community, the 2012 National Federation For Just Communities of Western New York, Community Leader Awards Luncheon was held on Jan. 19 at the Buffalo Convention Center. Mrs. Wilson was recognized by the NFJC as a community leader in sports for creating and developing her program as an athletic outlet for young girls in the Western New York region.
The goal of the Girls in Sports program is to empower, educate and motivate young girls through sports participation, learning sportsmanship skills, and awareness of opportunities for women. In partnership with the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County and the Girl Scouts of Western New York, these interactive sports clinics held twice per year in the Buffalo Bills Healthy Zone Fieldhouse include 200-250 female students, ages 9-12, from different "Closing the Gap" schools. The 'Closing the Gap' program is a school-community collaboration in six Buffalo Public Schools that integrates health, human, and social services to enhance conditions for learning.
At the Girls in Sports clinics, which are held twice each year, various stations such as tennis, basketball, volleyball, soccer, golf, rowing, ice hockey, double dutch, and lacrosse are set up throughout the Bills Fieldhouse and are supervised by local amateur, college and professional female athletes from organizations including the University at Buffalo, Canisius College, Niagara University, Medaille College, Upstate NY Jr. Golf – First Tee of WNY, Niagara Frontier Jr. Olympic Volleyball Club, Buffalo Soccer Club, Buffalo Jills, Girls on the Run and the WNY Flash professional women's soccer team. Mrs. Wilson spearheads the effort to bring all these partners together to help mentor and encourage young girls in the WNY community to reach for the stars.
At the clinics the girls participate in the different sports and learn about athletic opportunities for women both at the high school, college and professional level. All of the participating girls receive a healthy lunch, WNY Girls in Sports tee shirts and gifts bags compliments of Mrs. Wilson. Throughout the year the participating girls receive newsletters updating them on local female athletes and health and fitness tips.