The people of Buffalo, New York and the surrounding Western New York region are grateful for what they have.
I know. I live there.
And gratitude is powerful. From it comes generosity, character, and passion, all hallmarks of the City of Good Neighbors and those who live in and around it.
It's why anyone you encounter from the Buffalo area will be quick to rave about the food scene, the burgeoning downtown, the striking architecture, the distinct seasons throughout the year, and, of course, their Bills and Sabres.
Over the years, thanks to the nationwide platforms of Buffalo's two professional sports teams, the town's enviable personality traits have been spotlighted on a grand scale. For those with Western New York ties, giving back comes as naturally as saying "Go Bills" as a hello, goodbye, or anything in between.
We can start all the way back in January 1991, when thousands gathered in Buffalo's Niagara Square to show fervent support of their team and kicker Scott Norwood despite the Bills' crushing loss in Super Bowl XV. In 2017, Bills fans donated over $400,000 to then-Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton's foundation after he threw the game-winning touchdown that helped propel the Bills to the playoffs for the first time in 17 years.
Then there was January 2021, when, following a divisional-round win over the Ravens, a contest in which Lamar Jackson was knocked out of the game with a concussion, the Bills faithful gave over $150,000 to the Baltimore quarterback's favorite charity. And just this season, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered a head injury but remained in the game in an eventual victory over Buffalo, but Bills fans still made more than 1,000 donations to Tagovailoa's foundation.
Buffalo knows springing into action with kindness in distressing circumstances all too well, especially of late. After the horrific, unthinkable mass shooting at a Buffalo grocery store in May, the Bills visited the memorial days later and teamed with the NFL foundation to donate $400,000 to charities benefiting Buffalo's East Side community. Less than two weeks ago, Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas, who's planted roots in Western New York after his playing days, raised over $50,000 through social media for those affected by the Christmas-weekend blizzard that took the lives of over 40 people in the area.
And now this -- a tragic and indelible, split-second catastrophe to one of Buffalo's beloved Bills.
In a truly karmic way, the league, its 31 other franchises, and tens of thousands of others across the country have responded in Buffaloian fashion to the Damar Hamlin incident -- the most chilling on-field moment in NFL history, particularly given the enormity of the "Monday Night Football" audience.
Hamlin's toy-drive foundation, "Chasing M's," you've heard all about this week, is over $7 million in donations, with sizable contributions from Tom Brady, Robert Kraft, Davante Adams, Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, Sauce Gardner, Ryan Leaf, Michael Phelps, Dalton and multiple NFL teams among many others.
Every club's official Twitter account has changed its profile picture to "Pray For Damar." A plethora of Jumbrotrons in NFL stadiums feature a Hamlin still and lights have been lit blue and red. Seemingly every head coach started Week 18 press conferences with supportive messages for Hamlin and the Bills. Former Bills player and current Viking Harrison Phillips paid for dinners to be delivered to Bills on staff in Cincinnati, Hamlin's family, and the medical staff caring for him.
This, too -- President Joe Biden met with Hamlin's parents at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center Wednesday afternoon.
All of this represents karma in its finest form.
Of course, gratitude and generosity weren't birthed in Buffalo. They don't belong to Buffalo. But they've long been entwined in the DNA of Western New York just as the Bills are synonymous with Buffalo. The Bills presence in the NFL has often helped amplify Buffalo's graciousness.
So it's fitting that Buffalo can now be grateful for something else -- the all-encompassing generosity shown by the entire NFL community, and really, the entire country, while Hamlin is nursed back to health in the hospital.
The only natural way for this to come full circle is for Hamlin to experience the immense generosity, too.