BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Buffalo Bills players are known for their plays on the field, and for giving back, off the field. On Friday night, players were shining gold to raise awareness and money for pediatric cancer at the P.U.N.T. Pediatric Cancer Collaborative Annual Celebrity Wine Pairing Gala.
This is the biggest fundraiser for P.U.N.T. and it raises money for the signature programs within the organization. September is also pediatric cancer awareness month.
Bills tight end, Dawson Knox, is a spokesperson for the organization and says he got his start working with P.U.N.T. soon after he arrived in Buffalo. He says former tight end Lee Smith mentored him, showing him what the organization does and why it is important.
“Being able to go out there on the field, perform well, and being able to give back to the community and give back to them, it means a lot to me,” Knox said.
The gala served as a celebration and moment to recognize the village behind every cancer warrior. The night included a wine pairing, silent auction, and an appearance by several Buffalo Bills players, including Knox, kicker Tyler Bass, punter Sam Martin, long-snapper Reid Ferguson, and linebacker Tyler Matakevich.
“Without the public supporting what we do, our team is just people with very pure intentions that want to serve this population of parents and children fighting cancer in Western New York. The magic in the equation is when the public comes together to support what we do,” Gwen Mysiak, executive director for P.U.N.T., said.
The Kaplewicz family was one of several pediatric cancer warrior families in attendance. Their two-and-a-half year old son, Jack, rang the bell the other day, marking the end of his cancer treatment.
“You don’t realize how difficult it is when you’re stuck in a hospital room for two weeks and not working and not even able to pick up food and all those other things for our other children,” Jason Kaplewicz, parent of a pediatric cancer warrior, said.
The family says P.U.N.T. helped them with mortgage payments when they had to travel out of Western New York for Jack’s treatment. They also said the organization helped them get Christmas gifts for their kids, and even surprised Jack with a wagon so that he and his siblings could get around a bit easier.
‘It’s extremely overwhelming to see these things on the news and go oh wow, that has actually gone to someone in our community let alone ourselves,” Amy Kaplewicz, Jack’s mother, added.
The Bills open the season Monday night at Metlife Stadium, and the Pro-Bowl tight end says he views it as another opportunity to represent the City of Good Neighbors.
“That spirit of giving is really what the people of Buffalo are all about and its what they’ve been so incredible with in the past,” Knox added. “It feels like its been forever since the last season ended, but this is a new year. We’re very, very excited for Monday Night. It’s going to be awesome.”
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.