Even in a tough loss to the Buffalo Bills in the playoffs last weekend, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson still got a win. After the NFL star got injured and left the game in a pivotal moment during the AFC divisional playoff game on Saturday night, Bills fans rallied together and helped raise money for “Blessings in a Backpack,” a nonprofit that Jackson supports which provides food on weekends for elementary school children who might go hungry.
Since the game, the charity has received more than $435,000 in donations, the nonprofit’s chief marketing officer Nikki Grizzle told CBS News on Tuesday. She said the “majority” of the 16,000 individual donors have been Bills fans.
The deed would not go unnoticed by Jackson. He thanked the fans, known as the “Bills Mafia,” for their contributions.
“Appreciate that Bills Mafia,” Jackson tweeted. “Means a lot not to only me but those kids as well.”
“We’re incredibly thankful to the Bills Mafia and everyone that’s donated,” Grizzle told CBS News. “We wish Lamar all the best and we’re thankful for his involvement with us. It’s going to change a lot of kids’ lives.”
It’s first time the Bills’ fan base has proven to be both generous and gracious. In 2018, Buffalo fans donated to then-Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton’s foundation after he threw a winning touchdown pass that allowed the Bills to snap their 17-year playoff drought. This season, the Bills faithful have notably taken care of their own, donating more than $400,000 to team cornerback Josh Norman’s efforts to help local businesses in the Buffalo area. After their star quarterback, Josh Allen, lost his grandmother last year, they raised over $1 million in her memory at Oishei Children’s Hospital. Following this weekend, Ravens fans followed the Bills fan base and even donated to the cause.
Like many Bills fans who donated to Blessings in a Backpack, Anthony Dolce, tweeted a picture of a confirmation email showing what he gave in the spirit of supporting Jackson. Dolce told CBS News on Tuesday that the collective deeds by a fan base plagued by decades little NFL success is “just what we do.”
“Years and years and years of suffering, I think has kind of bred this appreciation and generosity within the fan base,” said Dolce, who works as a reporter for a local newspaper in Dunkirk, New York. “Because we really know what it’s like to be on the other end of this. So, it’s just kind of we’re not taking anything for granted. We just want to show our appreciation and show people what Western New York is all about.”
The current run has been historic for the Bills, who have never won a title. Over weeks ago, the team won its first playoff game since 1995. Now, they’re one win away from the Super Bowl, but they will have their hands full as they face the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Another diehard fan who donated, Jessica Allen, is just enjoying the ride.
“The playoff run has been just incredible,” Allen told CBS News. “I’m going to be 41 this weekend and I’ve been waiting what seems like forever to see the team succeed like this again.”
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