When wide receiver Stefon Diggs joined his teammates in honoring the victims of the Tops supermarket mass shooting on Buffalo's East Side that occurred on May 14, he knew he needed to come back to Jefferson Avenue and do more work to help heal hearts in the community.
"I'm just putting my left foot in front of my right," Diggs said. "I knew it was heavy the last time I was here, and I was trying to lift some spirits when I came back."
Diggs stuck to his word and reached out to Mayor Byron Brown with eagerness to plan an event that would benefit children in the Ellicott/Masten School Districts. On Wednesday, that event came to fruition when he held the first Back to School Bash at the Tops Supermarket on Jefferson Ave. that provided 600 youth with new backpacks, Nike gift cards, and fresh haircuts.
"As our city's children get ready to go back to school, we have to do everything to ensure that they have what they need to succeed in the new school year," Brown said. "Stefon's generosity is helping to ease the back-to-school anxiety and financial burden for many families in this East Buffalo neighborhood."
"600 children are going to be blessed today," Brown added. "Now you see, he's not only great on the field, he's great off the field as well."
Between the May 14th tragedy and watching his mom struggle when he was in need of a backpack and school supplies, Diggs wanted to impact the youth and let these kids know that he's there for them, especially with the new school year quickly approaching.
"As far as paying it forward and doing my due diligence, this is what my mom would want me to do," Diggs said. "I'm trying to support in the best way I know how and we're starting off in the right direction."
To further ensure these students that they are ready to go back to school, T-Mobile signed up eligible students and their families for free internet access just in time for the academic year, and Signature Cutz provided back-to-school haircuts.
All aspects of this event are going a long way for Karl, who was born and raised in Buffalo, and his family of eight. He shared that Wednesday's event saved him time and money when it came to making sure his kids were ready to return to the classroom and more importantly, it meant everything to the Buffalo community.
"We're not running away from the tragedy that happened," Karl said. "We're here in a community, and it's still going to be a central place for the neighborhood and community to come and get groceries. Thanks to Stefon, he provided a head start with the kids."
Diggs strives for being the most impactful by giving back to areas where it's needed the most. Courtney Mailhot, the community relations specialist for Tops Friendly Markets, expressed her gratitude the lasting impact that Diggs will have on this neighborhood as they prepare to kick off 2022-2023 school year.
"The children of the Ellicott Masten community will be thrilled to receive such generous gifts of new backpacks, school supplies, and other special items to start their school year off strong," Mailhot said.
Diggs shared that Buffalo has welcomed him with open arms since he got here, and he was happy to be able to bring that love full circle on Wednesday. Now that he'll be in Buffalo for the next few years, he hopes to keep this back-to-school drive going during his time here.
"I like scoring touchdowns, I like making plays, but this gives you another sense that I'm human," Diggs said. "I'm not just a football player. I'm out here trying to make a difference and I use my platform in the most effective way possible, and that's helping people."