By Jim Gehman, Player Engagement Insider
As a rookie with the Buffalo Bills in 2001, Brian Moorman and his wife, Amber, would spend part of their Tuesdays, his day off from the team, at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, where they’d visit children who were receiving treatment. It was there that he met and developed a friendship with five-year-old Taylor Speth.
“I was making a Christmas card with him and really hit it off with him,” Moorman said. “I got to know his parents a little bit and felt like maybe it would benefit the kids if I just went up and visited them in their room at the hospital and I asked if that’d be okay.So I started going there on Tuesdays and was able to get to know a lot of different kids and different families and our goal became to try and put smiles on their faces.
“Taylor’s in college now. I got to see him grow up. It’s a great story. And I got to know a lot of other kids who have really been inspiring to me and Amber. The families we meet and the kids we meet are beyond inspirational. We started to see more and more need in different ways and decided that we’d start our own Foundation and see if we could accomplish finding a way to get that need addressed.”
The Moorman’s founded Brian Moorman’s P.U.N.T. Foundation – www.puntfoundation.org – in 2004.
“It stands for perseverance, understanding, need and triumph,” Moorman said. “My two favorites are perseverance and triumph. Obviously, I want to see the kids persevere and I want to see them triumph over this disease. We also want them to know that as best we can, we try and understand what they’re going through.
“Like I said, as time went on we started to see more and more need that we wanted to address personally and hopefully be able to raise the funds to do that. We decided to start our organization to be able to have our own programs that address what, we felt by talking to the parents and the nurses and the social workers, were things that the kids would need. Whether it is direct financial assistance or an opportunity to take their mind off of their treatments and go to a Bills game. Or our Field of Dreams program where it’s like a little mini-wish.
“And as the years have kind of gone on, we’ve added other things like our Bereavement Weekend, that we actually just had our third one two weeks ago. That was a much needed thing in western New York for families that have lost their children, which unfortunately, we’ve known many.
“Our Adopted Family program has been big over the holidays. It’s grown from one family that Amber and I took gifts to 34 (families) last Christmas. So each of these programs has their own little special place in our hearts, and are things that have been well thought out and mean a lot to us to keep going.”
Moorman, a two-time Pro Bowler whose 13-year career with the Bills ended following the 2013 season, isn’t alone. Many in western New York help keep the P.U.N.T. Foundation going with monetary donations and by participating in fundraisers like a KanJam tournament, which will take place at Ralph Wilson Stadium on July 23.
“This is going to be the first year,” Moorman said. “The people at KanJam agreed to do a fundraiser with us and the Bills have allowed us to do it at the stadium, which I think is probably one of the unique fundraisers that you’re going to see around. We’re going to hopefully sign up a good number of teams to come out and everybody will raise money through crowd funding and be part of it.
“I’m excited about it. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and a unique opportunity for people to come out and compete on the home field of the Buffalo Bills. It may not be football, but it’s for a good cause.
“I’ve said time and time again that it never ceases to amaze me how people in western New York just continue to open their arms wide and give people a big hug. And any time that there’s need, they’re there. And it’s not just our organization, it’s many others. There are a lot of organizations in Buffalo that are helped by the people in western New York and we’re grateful to be one of them. The people there are amazing and I’m proud to have played my entire career there.”