The fan group Bills Mafia is leading the charge on another impressive philanthropic effort. In honor of fellow fan "Pancho Billa," who died this week after a battle with cancer, fans have been encouraged to donate to the Teacher's Desk. As of Friday morning, the Buffalo-based charity has received over $70,000 in donations.
Known for his mask decked out in the Buffalo Bills colors of red, white and blue, "Pancho Billa" was a Bills fan residing in Texas. His real name was Ezra Castro. He was 39 years old.
Bills Mafia co-founder Del Reid says he initially knew Castro through social media. Their friendship, he says, had grown in recent years.
"He was a great guy who is going to be missed."
Reid is not surprised by the charitable reaction among his fellow fans.
"This is a recurring theme and it's something I'm really proud of with my fellow Bills fans, Western New Yorkers, just that we really put our money where our mouth is. We don't just say how much we love things, we express it."
The Bills Mafia has gained acclaim for helping to raise money in recent years for charities based in Cincinnati, Chicago and Nashville.
Reid is pleased so much help is going the Teacher's Desk.
"They are able to basically get a high-end backpack filled with $100 worth of school supplies for just $10. So every $10 donation results in a kid getting a ton of school supplies and a great backpack."
According to Reid, students will benefit in Buffalo and in Castro's hometown of El Paso, Texas.
The Buffalo Bills have honored the Texas native for his continued passion for the team despite his growing health problems. Last season, head coach Sean McDermott asked Castro to address his players the night before their week 11 game against the New York Jets. He was also called upon to take part in the team's last two NFL Drafts.