ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — “Nelson Mandela says sports connect people, well we’re united in the Bills.”

They ran. They Stretched. They Danced.

2,000 bills fans warmed up the field at Highmark Stadium, two sleeps away from the big Monday night home opener game.

“Just seeing how everybody’s getting behind the bills and then doing it this year especially, feels like this cool opportunity to christen the field before the Bills play Monday night,” said Steve Procknal, Fitness Director for the Buffalo Club, that held exercise classes on the field. “We are the city of good neighbors, adding movement into it compounds that even more.”

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York and the Bills, held six free work out classes for the community to enjoy on Saturday during their 2nd annual “Fitness on the Field” event.

“You know, in Buffalo we have the best fans in the country, and I think that today’s events are a way for them to sort of start getting that excitement going for the game on Monday,” said Michael Ball, Vice President of Community Affairs for Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York. “So not only is exercise important for our overall health, but for our mental health.”

While a lot of people are excited to cheer on the team, Highmark believes it’s also important to bring the community not only to honor the Bills, but to advocate awareness on how exercise helps mental health.

“We recognize that our community has been through a lot over the last few months so we felt that it was important to not only exercise physically but to provide an opportunity for us to reflect and have a really thoughtful conversation around what it means to be healthy from a mental behavioral health stand point as well,” said Ball.

For this year’s “Fitness on the Field,” Highmark provided free shuttles from MLK park, to help inner city residents be apart of the fun and to hear from mental health advocator Kendall Toole, from Peloton, who came in to speak about her own personal journey in overcoming depression and thoughts of suicide.

For participants like Kenya Petcy, a Buffalo resident, she believes this conversation is important.

“I definitely think it’s super important, especially in the black community because a lot of people don’t take mental health serious,” said Petcy. “The opportunity to come our here and have someone speak on mental health and have all these different staying active opportunities to show there’s different ways to take care of your mental health is really important.”

Highmark says they will continue to offer exercise classes throughout the community. For their full list of events and for more information, click here.

Hope Winter is a reporter and multimedia journalist who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.