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Karma at its finest: Bills Mafia’s legacy of giving paying off for one of their own

Buffalo Bills fans have a long history of giving to opponents' causes. When one of their own suffered a frightening cardiac injury on Monday Night Football, fans across the country returned the favor.
Posted: 5:12 PM, Jan 04, 2023
Updated: 2023-01-04 19:12:00-05

For Buffalo Bills fans, the response to Damar Hamlin’s frightening cardiac injury on Monday Night Football – specifically, the multi-million dollar fundraising effort backing his hometown community toy drive – is rather karmic.

Supporters of the team – known as “Bills Mafia” – have a long history of giving, after all.

“Ever since the beginning of Bills Mafia, we've always tried to have charitable efforts be one of the core components of our DNA,” co-founder Del Reid told Denver7.

Watch: Denver7 anchor Jason Gruenauer, a Buffalo-area native and Bills fan himself, sits down with Bills Mafia to discuss the response to Hamlin's injury:

Karma at its finest: Bills Mafia’s legacy of giving paying off for one of their own

The list of those charitable efforts is lengthy. Recent examples among them:

  • Earlier this season, fans donated in droves to Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s foundation after Tagovailoa suffered a concussion and was knocked out of a game for the second time in five days.
  • Last year, when their team reached the AFC Championship game, Bills Mafia donated to injured Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson’s charity of choice, Blessings in a Backpack.
  • When Von Miller – in his first full season with the Bills following a trade from the Broncos midway through the 2021 season – suffered a season-ending injury, fans supported him through donations to his charity, Von’s Vision Foundation.
  • In 2018, when quarterback Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals eliminated the Ravens from playoff content – boosting Buffalo to the playoffs for the first time in nearly two decades – Bills fans helped raise $300,000 for Dalton’s charity.
  • Upset with the referees after a 2021 loss, they donated to a charity for people who are visually impaired

“That's really become our calling card as fans,” Reid said. “And we as fans on the whole are so quick to want to do that. I say this only half-seriously, [but] a player can stub his toe, and I'll get a tweet [asking], ‘Where are we donating?’”

“That's just who we are.”

Reid said the fanbase appreciates the support for Hamlin and his charity – a community toy drive for kids in his Pittsburgh-area hometown of McKees Rocks, Pa.

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People remembering the philanthropic spirit of Bills fans, and returning the favor for a Buffalo Bill in a battle for his life, Reid says, is good karma.

“That's really what I'd like to think is the legacy of Bills Mafia,” he said, “not jumping through tables and the crazy tailgating and stuff that you see online.”

“[That] is such a small percentage of who we really are as fans. But a large percentage of what we are as fans is this giving mentality. And so that's, I think it's a great legacy that we can all be proud of.”