Paying it forward in Disney the Bills Mafia way
In early January Buffalo Bills fans finally found a way to put exactly what Bills Mafia stands for in the national spotlight, and no, it had nothing to do with breaking any tables.
Following Buffalo’s first playoff bid in 17 years, Bills fans donated more than $345,000 to Andy Dalton’s foundation after the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback threw an unlikely touchdown pass on fourth down against the Baltimore Ravens, sending his team home with a 31-27 win and the Bills a tiebreaking edge.
But paying it forward comes in all different shapes and sizes, regardless of attention.
On Jan. 24, a few weeks after Dalton’s pass, 18-year-old Will Wurts, a student at Iroquois High School in Elma, was taking in his final day at Disney World. A group of approximately seven or eight of his friends decided to spend the day in the flagship park, Magic Kingdom. They were on a class trip.
That same day, Jon Beebe, 34, who is not related to but has met former Bill Don Beebe, went to the same park, at the same time, at the same… restroom? Well, sort of. Beebe, a graduate of West Seneca West, was not with a group of his peers like Wurts, he was with his family.
Beebe’s wife, Lauren, took their three daughters, two-year-old Londyn, five-year-old Juiliana, and seven-year-old Ava to the restroom. While waiting with the stroller, Beebe heard what he’d been waiting for.
We’re doing it with a Bills jersey
That yell was from Wurts and his group of friends, who had stopped at the same rest area near the park’s entrance.
Five years prior to that Magic Kingdom pit stop, Beebe decided making a stranger smile was worth more than a couple of dollars. Lauren Beebe got him a Russell Wilson jersey as a gift. It didn’t fit. So instead of returning it, she suggested that they get another of the correct size and just give away the first to the first Seattle fan that made a comment to him about his correctly-fitting Wilson jersey during their annual trip to Disney World.
Beebe said Wilson is one of his favorite non-Bills players.
Ironically enough, the first scenario played out the same way as it did with Wurts, just with different jersey’s involved. Beebe actually went to another park first while wearing the same jersey he planned to give away, Hollywood Studios, and no dice. No fan spoke up. Then to off to Magic Kingdom where Beebe found a match in both scenarios.
Beebe, who now lives just north of Philadelphia where he’s a youth pastor at LCBC Church, said he knew a higher power would bring him his Wilson-match on the first try. Beebe recalled the man he gave his extra Wilson jersey was near 80 years old. Beebe didn’t expect the man to become emotional.
“He started tearing up. He had just gone to his first Seahawks games a couple weeks prior to that,” Beebe said. “He was with his whole family. They told me, ‘You don’t know how much this means to him”
After that, Beebe said he told his wife, an Eagles fan, he knew what they had to do.
“We’re doing this every year and were doing a Buffalo Bills jersey. That’s where I’m from and that’s my passion,” Beebe said.
It’s just what we do
In doing so, Beebe has given away a LeSean McCoy or Jim Kelly jersey the past four years, usually a Kelly one. Wurts, who said he yelled and fist pumped to somewhere between 15 and 20 Bills fans over the six-day trip he was on was the lucky one this time around.
“I saw this guy wearing a Bills jersey, and yelled, ‘Go Bills!’ Because, that’s just what (Bills fans) do,” Wurts said. “He just walked up to me and said ‘Do you have a Jim Kelly jersey?’ I said no I do not, and then he told me now I do and handed me it.”
Wurts said he was confused at first, but then looked in the bag and found a jersey with a message that read: This jersey comes with no strings attached, just like God’s love for you. God Bless. Go Bills.
“It was just out of nowhere, I wasn’t expecting someone to just give me a Jim Kelly jersey like that,” Wurts said.
Beebe described Wurts, like the others before him… speechless.
The message was signed from the Beebes, with a #BillsMafia added to the end.
Bills Mafia mindset
Beebe knows what Bills Mafia stands for. He knows it’s not a fan base; it’s a fam-base.
“I always tell people in Philly there’s so much more to Buffalo. Buffalo is like a southern city located in the north. We just don’t have the accents,” Beebe said.
Beebe said his giveaway is his way to be a part of the fam-base and simply just a way he can spread joy. Really, both parts is exactly what the Bills Mafia mindset is about.
“The goal of my life is to just make people’s days. I always want to make people smile. I’m sick and tired of bitter people who are just miserable and want to ruin people’s day. There are enough people out there ruining people’s day’s. If I can just make a person’s day each day? That’s my goal,” Beebe said.
For Del Reid, one of the founders of Bills Mafia & 26 Shirts, hearing about Beebe and Wurst’s Disney exchange is exactly what creating the group was all about.
“While ‘mafia’ is a pretty loaded term, we’ve always done our best to emphasize the family connotation. It’s been our goal to channel that “Go Bills!” verbal exchange that fans have when seeing each other,” he said.
“Hearing stories like this will never get old. It warms my heart to know that people still remember the roots and that it’s not just about the wild partying.”
And in typical Bills Mafia fashion, it only gets better.
Beebe said Wurts won’t be the last person he surprises at Disney World with a Bills jersey and, despite the already incredible gesture, after the giveaway went viral, he wants to figure out a way to go an extra step in the future and top the jersey giveaway.
As for Wurts, he knows it’s much better to give than receive, he said he’s already talking to his mom about a way they can do something similar.
“It’s just awesome what he’s doing. It just shows what kind of community we have in Buffalo,” Wurts said. “It’s more than just a team, it’s a family.”
And this story wouldn’t be complete without one more thing, a trust the process. Wurts added a process hashtag on a Snapchat message he sent out soon after his exchange with the Beebe family: