BUFFALO – Thurman Thomas and Patricia Thomas have been at the forefront of fundraising and being there for the community in the aftermath the racist shooting at Tops Friendly Markets East Buffalo, which left 10 people dead and three injured.
A clear theme emerged as the Hall-of-Fame ran back to hear stories about those who had been killed.
Thomas shared that the one thing that he learned from each victim was that they were there to help others. This is what demonstrates the love that Buffaloans have for each others. Right now, we don't see it as often as we should. It's a great feeling to be out there. I have been there for three hours. Although I had a lot to do, these people are what keep me going. They just make it worth their while to talk to me and put a smile on my face. It's almost like it was a great day. Now it's time for healing. Because it's time for healing.
One day after the Bills' players, coaches, and staff visited the spot of the shooting, Roger Goodell, who is from Jamestown in New York about an hour south of Buffalo, became involved with the voluntary efforts of Kim and Terry Pegula.And A variety of ex-Sabres and Bills players joined forces Thursday to visit the memorial, as well as the volunteers on Jefferson Avenue. They also handed out groceries at the Resource Center of Western New York.
The group wore shirts saying “Choose Love”, just like the Bills Sabres and National Lacrosse League Buffalo Bandits of the previous day.
Jane Goodell and her husband, Bill, will donate $50,000 to The Bills Social Justice Fund in addition to the $400,000 donated by The Buffalo Bills Foundation, The NFL Foundation, to The Buffalo Together Community Response Fund, and local non profit organizations.
Goodell stated that she feels a personal attachment to the community, calling it “my home”. “I think that we wanted to let people know they weren't the only ones, that they weren't in pain alone, and that they could count on our support. And how proud we are of their responses. Talking to individuals was the best thing for me. While we all know there is a terrible situation here with 10 victims, there are many other people who are really suffering. We want them to know we are there for them, and that we will all do our best to help them.
The Thurman Thomas Family Foundation also raised more than $200,000 to help the victims' families and the community.
Jim Kelly expressed pride in the Bills players' support for Buffalo, and noted that former players also acknowledged that Buffalo is their city.
There was a wide range of emotions throughout the day. Bruce Smith (Hall-of-Fame) wept at memorial for victims while Terry Pegula was visibly moved.
Smith felt the need to pay respects to his fallen friend after describing the “horrific rampage to killing, killing innocent African Americans just for going to the grocery shop.” The Hall of Famer wanted support for a community who has been there for Smith.
Smith stated, “I needed that moment so I could begin this healing process.” “And to be present today, passing food out and with my brother Thurman Thomas and Jim Kelly and the Pegulas as well as Roger (Goodell and so many other people.
“And then you see the community. You bet this racist did not expect the outpouring of love and support that is taking place right now. This is the strengthening of this community right now. And that's what we're going build upon.”
Goodell emphasized the importance of making long-lasting, preventative changes to this community. This goes beyond what can be achieved in a single afternoon.
“That was one thing that really resonated with (the people of the community) was just what happens after cameras leave? Kim Pegula explained what happens when it's no longer the top news story. “This is where they want to listen to them, understand what their needs are, and work towards sustainability. What can we do to improve on what has been done and what is being done? How can we avoid such things? How can we change our behavior and minds, but in a way which lasts and has meaning?