A hardcore Buffalo Bills fan started the avalanche of charitable donations sparked by the team's long-awaited return to the NFL playoffs.
He lives in Grand Island — Nebraska, not New York.
Kevin Forrest made a $30 online donation to Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton's foundation shortly after the Bengals beat the Baltimore Ravens, a win that helped propel the Bills into the playoffs for the first time in 17 years.
And, boy, have they.
"Next thing I look at my phone and it's going off like a slot machine," Forrest said in a phone interview.
The total amount of donations to the Daltons' charity, which helps children and families in need in the Cincinnati area, has eclipsed $315,000.
Forrest said he wanted to show his thanks to the Bengals and their players for what their win and the end of the Bills' long playoff drought meant to Bills fans. He picked the $30 amount because his employer, Union Pacific, matches employees' donations at that amount and above.
"I felt like it was the right thing to do," he said. "I had absolutely no idea that it was going to pick up steam like this."
@ChrisBrownBills @buffalobills @mikerodak @richeisen @andydalton14 @SteveTasker89 @viccarucci @JoeBuscaglia @JohnMurphyShow C’mon Bills fans, lets show Andy Dalton some love, I just did. https://t.co/FkXxJDswhI pic.twitter.com/xedR7e4IXJ
— Kevin Forrest (@kevboats) January 1, 2018
Forrest, 34, grew up a Bills fan. He fell in love with the team during the Super Bowl-run in the early 1990s. His first vivid memory of the Bills as a child was watching the "Greatest Comeback" game against the Houston Oilers in 1993. He named his dog Ralph, after the Bills' founding owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr.
There aren't many Bills fans in Grand Island, Neb. It's about 140 miles west of Omaha and — as Forrest learned on one of his three trips to Bills home games in Orchard Park — shares its name with a Buffalo suburb. The area is primarily Kansas City Chiefs' country, he said.
It started with a tweet
Forrest grew up in Omaha and moved to Grand Island five years ago. He has family back in Omaha and when he's there, if the Bills are playing, he tries to make it a Bills backers' bar called Kelly's Western Bowl, an old bowling alley where the bartenders are Raiders fans and the games are shown on a large tube television.
Forrest usually hops on Twitter during Bills games, and that's where he was Sunday after the Bills beat the Miami Dolphins and Dalton threw a last-minute touchdown pass that enabled the Bengals to defeat the Baltimore Ravens.
After he overcame his disbelief that the Bills had made the playoffs, he jumped on his computer, first thinking he would tweet at Dalton and ask if he had a favorite charity.
"I gotta do something to show my gratitude," he remembers thinking.
But then he decided to Google Dalton and saw the quarterback had his own charity.
In his tweet, he tagged a few media types who cover the Bills, imagining he'd be lucky to get a single retweet from one of those accounts. He went to dinner and, later on, his phone just kept vibrating.
As of Thursday afternoon, he had 114 retweets. His tweet has been seen more than 47,000 times.
Many of the responses to his tweet early on were from Bengals fans, some of whom said they now had a team to pull for in the playoffs.
Forrest, who is recovering from a recent surgery and will probably watch Sunday's Bills playoff game against the Jaguars from home, shrugs off credit for spurring the outpouring of donations from Bills fans.
Despite the national notoriety from a few fans' bad tailgating antics, generosity is what really characterizes Bills fans, Forrest said.
"Deep down, we've got huge hearts, and that's across the whole fan base," he said.
As for Bengals quarterback Dalton, he called the avalanche of donations that Forrest sparked "incredible" in a statement issued by a spokesman for his foundation.
"This is proof that one person can make a big difference. From Kevin's one sincere gesture came a flurry of generosity that will impact hundreds of families in need. It's incredible," Dalton said in the emailed statement. "We hope he knows how grateful we are."