BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – While many things have changed during the pandemic, COVID-19 hasn’t stopped the Bills from giving back to the community and groups that are important to them.
Bills defensive linemen Harrison Phillips and Vincent Taylor along with fullback Patrick DiMarco surprised the Special Olympics of New York with a $20,000 donation on behalf of the organization on a zoom call last week.
“To be able to be a part and join in on that phone call as well as just raising the awareness among our team and this is an area that we would like to donate money towards, it’s great to see everything come full circle and was definitely a blessing,” Harrison Phillips said on a zoom call with News 4 Sports.
They presented the donation on a 45 minute question-and-answer zoom call with some of the Special Olympians.
“It’s very special you know when Derek [Boyko, Bills PR] reached out to me I was all hands in and just to see the other players like Pat and Harry and just to see how excited those kids were, just to see the passion that they share for the things that they do and just to be on that call was a blessing,” Vincent Taylor said on a zoom call with News 4 Sports.
This is a group that Phillips especially has taken a great interest in during his football career. His nonprofit group, the Playmakers, works with kids with developmental differences and special needs. Through the Playmakers, Phillips has run free youth football camps in Buffalo, Sacramento and Omaha as well as other events with the athletes throughout the year.
“We try to provide them with the opportunities that sports brings people which is very similar to Special Olympics. We obviously have really different fun ways of doing it and we also like to show that these kids are so strong and so independent and they can also give back to the community and find ways to serve others,” Phillips explained.
There were three kids on the zoom call with Special Olympics of New York who have been a part of his Playmakers events and football camps as well.
“It’s great just to see the overlap and I was able to go down to the Special Olympics winter games this year in Rochester with over 900 athletes and to see them there and speak to them. It was really, really awesome just all ages, all differences, all abilities so we just love being able to support this financially,” Phillips said.
For these three Bills players, getting involved with Special Olympics of New York and helping kids with special needs goes back to their own families.
DiMarco and his wife Kristin were involved with Special Olympics back when he was with Atlanta and that continued when he came to Buffalo.
Taylor started working with Special Olympics because his godmother, Shawn Britt was the Regional Director of the Special Olympics in San Antonio.
As for Phillips, his mom ran a daycare at their house growing up and some of the kids had special needs. Now giving back to these kids is a huge part of his life and hopes to spread awareness.
“I think sometimes they’re an overlooked population. I think that sometimes especially when we talk about social justice often times it always goes to the inner city and minorities which is definitely still a passion of mine and something more than ever we need to address and talk about. But prior to this when I came into the NFL a lot of my buddies they had organizations that were targeted at at-risk youth. As I went to different friends’ football camps and different events some of the guys have here I saw a lot of the same things you know providing free camps and free stuff for the at-risk youth and the inner cities. You know I’m not from the inner city and I’m not a minority and so sometimes those kids don’t look at me and understand my story,” Phillips explained.
“So as much as I still love to give back and I go to as many schools as I can and help out in every way that I can I just felt like this niche community that was perfect for what I was trying to do. There wasn’t anybody else really doing what I’m doing and I was trying to look around and I think this year if everything was on track we were going to touch over 2,000 kids and I don’t know any other NFL football player doing that with this population. So I’m extremely blessed to be in the position that I am and just hope that I can become a good football player one day so I can grow this thing even bigger,” Phillips said with a smile.