Bills fans donate over $18K to visual impairment organization after Sunday’s game
Bills Mafia is back at it with its charitable ways, this time as a way to take a shot at what the hardcore fan base viewed as substandard officiating in Sunday’s 33-27 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
According to numerous news outlets in Western New York, including a report from Abby Fridmann of WIVB, Bills fans have rallied around Visually Impaired Advancement in the wake of the team’s loss.
The charitable drive was inspired by a missed pass interference call involving wideout Stefon Diggs in Sunday’s loss and instigated by lifelong Bills fan Hunter Schinabeck. Outraged, Schinabeck decided to make something good out of the situation instead of wallowing in his anger.
“Somebody said, ‘Oh donate to a blind charity, for the refs,'” Schinabeck said, via WIVB.com. “… I found the VIA after a quick Google search. They seemed to be doing a lot of good, so it was an easy decision at that point. And then I just made my donation in honor of the NFL refs.”
The donations took off from there. Coming in $17 increments — in recognition of Bills quarterback Josh Allen’s number — Bills Mafia has answered the call with approximately $18,000 in donations in a span of 24 hours as of Wednesday morning.
VIA vision education specialist Ray Zylinski was understandably overjoyed by the Bills Mafia’s generosity.
“You know, it’s nothing new for the Bills. We’ve always gotten calls that were difficult,” Zylinski said, via WKBW.com. “We have such a large community of supporters here and whether that be supporting the Bills as fans or supporting local nonprofit organizations like VIA: Visually Impaired Advancement, that’s really what I love most.”
“It was interesting because when I saw the donation, I thought, ‘Oh wait, what is $17?’ And then I saw the message behind it and I was a little bit confused and then I put two-and-two together of, ‘Oh my gosh. This is for the refs, and Hunter had that funny thing of, ‘to stop referee blindness.’ I go, ‘Oh my gosh. How tongue and cheek of him to really go for this. Then, whenever I saw the $17, I called our development director and I said, ‘Hey, what is this?'” VIA marketing and communications manager Samantha Burfiend added. “We are getting inundated in the minute. So, as I’ve been talking to people. We’re at least getting one or two every couple of minutes. We’re really hoping for a good turnout from this, but it has been quite the extreme, especially since it got onto Twitter.”
As mentioned, Bills fans have cultivated a reputation for charitable acts as a result of something that occurred on the gridiron, so this week’s events are simply another example of Bills Mafia’s football-inspired generosity.
As noted in a report from Buffalo’s 7ABC, while VIA “recognizes that NFL officials may not actually be impacted by visual impairment, the organization ‘has many clients who enjoy watching the game of football and love to experience it in person,'” per the VIA.
In other words, regardless of the motivation that inspired the huge influx in donations, VIA genuinely appreciates the collective gesture.