Fans of the Buffalo Bills are known for being generous. Through the years, they’ve donated to the Andy Dalton Foundation, helped Tyler Boyd fund youth programs in Western Pennsylvania, given money to Lamar Jackson’s charity, and supported Josh Allen with donations to Oishei Children’s Hospital in the wake of the passing of his grandmother. Now the Bills Mafia is channeling their disappointment into another big positive in their own backyard.
After last Sunday’s close loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, fans were understandably upset at some missed calls by the game officials. Specifically, there were several plays where receiver Stefon Diggs was grabbed or held down the stretch, including one in the end zone that would have potentially won the game for Buffalo. Following the game, Bills fans started donating to Visually Impaired Advancement, an organization in Western New York that “helps people who are blind or visually impaired achieve their highest level of independence.”
Thank you, #BillsMafia members, for donating $17!— VIA: Visually Impaired Advancement (@viawny) December 14, 2021
While we recognize that NFL referees are not visually impaired, $17 makes an impact on VIA to help individuals who are visually impaired. If you would like to donate to VIA, go to https://t.co/YzjDkTzPaH.#LetsGoBuffalo pic.twitter.com/uCCT1pDBgb
The $17 increments have become a standard amount of giving after the campaign for Allen, who wears number 17.
After building for several days, the total amount of money has exceeded $65,000 in just one week, according to VIA (pronounced “VEE-ah”).
This week has been one that our team will never forget. Thank you, #BillsMafia for your generosity. Our mission is to assist people who are visually impaired to achieve independence through vision rehabilitation & social services. Visit https://t.co/GjxHBPq2wv and Go Bills! pic.twitter.com/u020MN5MnT— VIA: Visually Impaired Advancement (@viawny) December 19, 2021
To add your donation, you can head over to this link: http://viawny.org/donate
While some might see this as ableist, crass, or mean-spirited, VIA released a statement Friday with their thoughts on the subject. Of course they can use the funds and they are treating the donations in the spirit of generosity.
VIA: Visually Impaired Advancement works with many clients who are visually impaired and doesn’t condone mocking of them in any way. We believe the donations in honor of the referees have been done in jest and know that our clients have Bills Mafia’s full support. If this is your first time learning about visual impairments, VIA’s rehab services and communication department are working together to create tools and tutorials to train individuals on inclusivity. VIA will be posting a workplace inclusion blog before the year’s end. Please stay tuned for more content.
“When people in Buffalo are aware of an opportunity to help, they always rise to the occasion. We are incredibly grateful to be on the receiving end of the generosity of the people in this community and the love they have for our Buffalo Bills. The funds we receive will provide individuals who are blind with the training, skills, and tools they need to be successful in education, employment, and life skills. We thank each and every person, not only for their donation but for bringing greater awareness to diversity and inclusion and the capabilities of people who are visually impaired. It makes you feel great, not only about the clients that we serve, but the wonderful nature of the people who live in this community. To fans around the world, thank you and Go Bills!” – Tammy Owen, CEO of VIA: Visually Impaired Advancement.
While this particular effort was sparked by disappointment about blown calls, it will do a tremendous amount of good for people who are visually impaired. That’s something for Bills Mafia to be truly proud of.