Nearly 200 girls converged on the Buffalo Bills Field House on March 20th to kick, throw, swing and jump during their day of being introduced to a world of sports opportunities.
The girls, ages 9-12, took part in The Western New York Girls in Sports Clinic which was founded six years ago by Mary Wilson, wife of Bills Owner Ralph Wilson. In partnership with the Buffalo Bills, United Way and Buffalo Public Schools the girls were given the opportunity to participate in different sports-themed stations such as tennis, golf, volleyball, soccer, ice hockey, rowing, double dutch and sportsmanship.
"Sports have been a part of my life from a very young age," said Mary Wilson. "My first love was neighborhood football. After a broken nose, my mother decided that was the end of my football, and fortunately put a tennis racquet in my hand, which has been a lifelong love and pursuit. I am now into golf and hope to break 80 one day soon! But my real passion is spreading the joy of sports and the importance of athletics and exercise in one's life."
Mr. Ralph Wilson, Bills Hall of Fame owner, was also in attendance at the Bills Field House to support his wife and the program.
"I think athletics should be a great part of a person's life," said Mr. Wilson. "It is not only fun but healthy, and I am happy that the Bills are a part of promoting this event."
Over 100 volunteer coaches showed the girls skills, drills and tips for each particular sport, and also showed videos and shared positive information regarding good sportsmanship. In addition to the University at Buffalo, Canisius College and Niagara University, also assisting were volunteers from Upstate NY Jr. Golf, Sportsplex, Niagara Frontier Jr. Olympic Volleyball Club, the Buffalo Soccer Club and the Girl Scouts.
The student participants were from different "Closing the Gap" schools in Buffalo and they were also treated to a gift bag and lunch during their afternoon.
Mary Wilson's passion of sports was handed down to her from her mother, and she credits her as the inspiration for the Girls in Sports program.
"Juanita Freemon McLean, my mother, was a great athlete and had a passion to help girls find an athletic activity that they would enjoy," said Mary Wilson. "She put herself through college teaching physical education to other students and participated in many sports: basketball, volleyball, synchronized swimming, tennis, and archery. After graduating from TCU, in Ft. Worth, Texas, she taught physical education for over 30 years and loved helping to develop girl's interest in sports. My mother is my inspiration. I hope that this program inspires these young girls to make sports and exercise an important part of their lives."
The goal of the WNY Girls in Sports program is to empower, educate and motivate young girls through sports participation, learning life skills and awareness of Title IX and its history. For more information, visit the community page at buffalobills.com.