JAMESTOWN, N.Y. (WIVB) — A Southern Tier man is underway in his three-day walk to Highmark Stadium ahead of the Bills vs. Vikings game on Sunday.
“It’s about 68 miles,” Patrick Smeraldo said. “Depending on weather and daylight, we’ll see what we can get done.”
Patrick Smeraldo is a school PE teacher in Jamestown. He’s making the long trek to help raise money and awareness for a non-profit that means a lot to him: Harrison’s Playmakers. The group coaches and mentors kids with social, physical and economic challenges. A big part of Smeraldo’s job involves working with kids with disabilities and he said he recently met Harrison Phillips, to discuss getting more Southern Tier kids involved.
“My goal would be to expand Harrison’s Playmakers into Chautauqua and Cattaraugus County and to get as many kids from this area involved in Harrison’s Playmakers and all the fantastic things he does,” Smeraldo said. “So that’s my end-all goal … to expand his organization to come to our county and help our kids.”
Smeraldo will arrive at the stadium Sunday, around the same time Harrison Phillips comes back to play at Highmark for the first time since being traded to the Minnesota Vikings.
Phillips became a beloved player by many when he was in Buffalo, but especially the kids.
“We have kids who just run up and jump into his arms,” Deb Cavers said, the regional director for Harrison’s Playmakers. “And he embraces all of them. I can truly say that he misses them all when he talks to them. He knows their names and things about them. There are kids in our foundation that email him directly and he’ll email them back. Or they’ll put it in to me and I’ll tell them, ‘I’ll give him a call,’ and he does that.”
Harrison’s Playmakers still very much helps kids even though he’s not in town. He keeps in touch with the kids in season, and plans to visit often when the season is over. He’s even asked three former teammates on the Bills to help the kids grow: Reggie Gilliam, Quinton Morris and Tommy Doyle.
Deb Cavers, the regional director for the group, said there were 75 kids involved in the group when it started four years ago. Now, there are more than 550.
And when Patrick is done with his walk, he hopes even more can get involved too.
To donate to Patrick’s cause:
Make out check/money order to: Collaborative Children’s Solutions PO Box 3641 Jamestown, NY 14702