Eric Wood believes the best teams are the ones that forge the closest bonds off the field.
Several teammates joined Wood on Monday night to help raise more than $57,000 for The Children’s Hospital of Buffalo Foundation and Stone’s Buddies through the Bills center’s annual Flights and Bites fundraiser at Big Ditch Brewing Co.
“My teammates and the staff with the Bills, they always come out to support all of my events and it means a ton to me,” Wood said. “Then the community does, too. This city rallies around anybody that is giving back to Western New York.”
About 500 people purchased tickets for the event. Funds also were raised through silent and live auctions of signed memorabilia.
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“It was a great night and an awesome opportunity to raise a lot of money here in Western New York,” Wood said. “All of the money went straight to the kids. Mixing the players on the team with the people who bought tickets to come was kind of a unique experience for everybody.”
The cause hits close to home for Wood.
“My younger brother Evan, he was born with cerebral palsy and he passed when he was 11 years old,” Wood said. “I understand the struggle that these families have and because of that, I have a passion to give back to them.”
The Eric Wood Fund recently partnered with the Children’s Hospital of Buffalo Foundation and Stone’s Buddies to provide support, resources and assistance to pediatric patients with chronic illnesses and their families.
“Eric has been a blessing for us,” said Joanne Koessler, director of Stone’s Buddies. “We are really lucky to have him as part of our program. He also comes and visits kids in the hospital and brings the kids to games. He’ll take the kids shopping for the holidays.”
Last year, several teammates, including Tyrod Taylor and Cordy Glenn, joined Wood on the shopping excursion.
The Eric Wood Fund will maintain an office at the new John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital of Buffalo to focus on providing financial assistance to pediatric patients and their families.
“The partnership with Children’s Hospital of Buffalo was a move to make sure the Eric Wood Fund outlived my career here,” Wood said. “I can only play football for so long and I wanted to make sure that we were still going to make an impact in Buffalo over the long term.”