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Bengals QB Andy Dalton makes surprise visit to Roswell Park

The press conference had been going on for about 20 minutes, with JJ Dalton, the wife of Bengals' quarterback Andy Dalton, at the podium in Roswell Park Comprehensive Center when the unexpected happened.

That's when the man who presently may be the most popular quarterback in Buffalo entered the back of the packed room. He drew gasps and cheers as he made his way to the podium.

Andy Dalton, dressed in a black Andy & Jordan Foundation T-shirt and black jeans, was there to join his wife in giving thanks to Buffalo.

It's a well-told story: Dalton's winning touchdown pass last December into the arms of wide receiver Tyler Boyd catapulted the Bills into the playoffs after a 17-year drought. The throw came with 48 seconds left on the clock in the Bengals' season finale.

Bills fans responded by sending over $400,000 to the Dalton Foundation that was set up by the couple in 2011, shortly after Andy was drafted, to help seriously ill and physically challenged children.

"We're just so thankful for everything that happened," Andy Dalton began, holding his son Noah in his arms.

"Obviously, it was a cool football play, a play that allowed us to win the game and end our season the right way," Dalton said. "Obviously it helped Buffalo get into the playoffs.

"With that, we never thought it would turn into what it did," he said. "For this to happen so organically, and not anything that we were promoting, and to have it happen from a completely different fan base is pretty crazy, and a story that doesn't happen often.

"We're just so thankful for all the support we have got from the City of Buffalo, a lot of Bills fans all over – all over the world – and it's been so amazing," Dalton said. "Y'all may not know the impact we're going to make on so many families. Just the ability to relieve some financial burden, or help out in any way we can really goes a long way."

The Dalton Foundation donated what it calls a "Hub" to the pediatric department, which provides iPads, computers, mobile television and theater systems, gaming consoles and virtual reality headsets to help kids pass the time during hospital stays.

The foundation also made a donation to Roswell's Angel Fund, which provides money for emergency costs, hospital transportation and other needs.

JJ Dalton said the donations from Bills fans came as a family was in need of expensive treatment, and the foundation was struggling over how to cover the costs.

"It was in that moment, as these donations started coming in, that we did not have to say no to that family," JJ Dalton said.

"We could say yes, and that was one of many, many applications that came from Buffalo," she said. "That was one example of how this money has helped us, and how we wanted to come back and help you guys."

In a show of support, Phil Hubbell of Buffalo donated $25,000 to the Dalton Foundation's Angel Fund in Cincinnati to help with nonmedical urgent needs for patients and their families.

"A lot of times people can't make a rent payment or a mortgage payment, or afford transportation to and from cancer treatments," Hubbell said. "We can't let that happen," he said.

JJ Dalton said the donations from Buffalo are always foremost in the foundation's mind.

"To be able to help here as well as in Cincinnati just has been one of the most beautiful blessings," she said, choking up. "We just want to say thank you and that we have not forgotten, and we will not forget."

Candace Johnson, Roswell's president and CEO, grew up in Columbus, Ohio, cheering, she said, "for the Bengals in the family room with my father every Sunday."

"To have this confluence of our two cities" – Buffalo and Cincinnati – "is amazing," she said.

Johnson said the devices available to children through the Hub will be a huge benefit.

"You have no idea what this means to these kids," she told the Dalton Foundation.

Kevin Forrest, who made the first donation from Buffalo, for $30 right after the Bengals game ended, was amazed at what was taking place.

"I would never have imagined this in a million years," he said, after speaking briefly with Andy Dalton.

"Kevin's small act of kindness ended up changing the lives of tons of kids and their families," JJ Dalton said.

 

Meet the Bills fan who ignited wave of donations to Andy Dalton's foundation

Forrest tagged the Billls Mafia Twitter account after making the donation, which the group retweeted and tried to push people to. Many donated $17, a dollar for each year of the drought that was now over.

"It really didn't need a lot of help," said Del Reid, co-founder of the Bills Mafia, a booster group. "It was something that I think everybody wanted to express their excitement in some tangible way, so I think giving to the foundation was a natural fit.

"I thought it was really cool what Bills fans were able to do, and eight months later it's still happening," Reid said.

Dalton posed for dozens of photographs and passed out autographed pictures to young patients at the front of the room, while expressing gratitude and the importance of the foundation and Roswell's work in helping sick children.

"This is surreal," Reid said as he watched Andy Dalton from five feet away.

Watching with appreciation was Chuck Collard of the Courage of Carly Fund, named for his daughter, Carly Collard Cottone, who died from brain cancer in 2002. The fund serves children at Roswell receiving treatment for blood disorders.

"You couldn't have scripted this any better," Collard said.

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