ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – The holiday season is a busy time for Buffalo Bills Safety Jaquan Johnson. Never mind that it’s the homestretch of the regular season. It’s also among the busiest weeks of the year for Johnson’s foundation, called Johnson Opportunity Foundation.
Johnson started the foundation in Miami, where he’s from and where he went to the University of Miami. After being drafted by the Bills in 2019, he brought his work to Buffalo.
“And I’m happy to be able to do it,” Johnson said.
His work focuses on mentorship. Johnson works with children between the ages of 5 and 18.
“I look at kids the same way that I grew up,” he said. “I know my mom and dad, they made ends meet. But sometimes we couldn’t get everything we wanted for Christmas. I wasn’t fortunate enough to have people like me in my community to give back. Once I made it to the league, I said I’m going to change that for kids in Miami and wherever I’m playing.”
And that’s Buffalo, where in December, Johnson hosted a holiday party with kids. He also took some kids on a shopping spree at a local Dick’s Sporting Goods. Earlier in the month, he helped to distribute about 125 coats at the Northwest Buffalo Community Center.
“It’s not even the material things,” Johnson said. “(The kids) tell me about the experiences, the pictures, and me getting their names on Fortnite or something like that and playing a game with them. Those are some of the things that I look forward to when I give back.”
He says he can tell when he’s making a difference.
“They’d be like, ‘Hey Jaquan, remember when we…'” Johnson recalled. “That would be the main thing. As soon as they say, ‘Remember when,’ that means I’m changing something.”
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Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter and anchor who started working at WIVB in 2017. A Lancaster native, he came to Buffalo after working at stations in Rochester and Watertown. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.