While the NFL world was stunned by the eerie and chilling collapse of Buffalo Bills' safety Damar Hamlin Monday night, fans reacted with an outpouring of support and donations to his foundation.
A "Community Toy Drive" established on GoFundMe by Hamlin through his Chasing M's Foundation received over a half-million dollars in the wake of his scary medical situation in Cincinnati. The drive's goal was $2,500. Hours after Hamlin was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, the GoFundMe's total had surpassed over $2 Million.
In 2020, at the end of his final year at Pitt, Hamlin organized a toy drive for kids in his hometown of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania.
As a young man, Hamlin endure extreme adversity as as he lost three of his close friends to guns ... deaths that remain unsolved by police. In his own home, his father, Mario – trying to make ends meet for his wife, Nina. and Damar – turned to selling drugs. He was arrested, found guilty and spent 3 ½ of Damar’s formative years in prison.
Through it all, Hamlin credited his parents with a positive upbringing.
“I would just really give all that credit to my parents, that’s really like the biggest difference that I’ve seen in everyone’s lives that was around me growing up,” Hamlin said during an interview last year. “Just that fact of having two parents in my life that were dedicated to me and all into me, every move from being little to growing up. There were times where I could have steered left or steered right but my parents were always there to straighten me out and get me back on the track. I’ve got to give out a credit to them, it really had nothing to do with me. The only thing I had to do was just listen and that’s the type of kid I was.”
Hamlin earned a scholarship to Pitt, his hometown team. His progression to the NFL was a true feel-good story given his early life circumstances.
“Some of the stories you hear from these guys, you’re like, ‘Man, that’s tough; what a tough hand this player, this person has been dealt,’” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said last year. “But what an accomplishment for Damar to avoid things. He knows people that have died or whatever but at the end of the day he’s about football, he’s a good person, and he’s going to be a good pro.”
When he entered the NFL, Hamlin launched the Chasing M’s Foundation. He wrote this on the introductory page for the website in 2020:
As I embark on my journey to the NFL, I will never forget where I come from and I am committed to using my platform to positively impact the community that raised me. I created The Chasing M's Foundation as a vehicle that will allow me to deliver that impact.
Chasing M’s has conducted toy drives for children, and the donations were sent to his mother Nina’s Day Care Center in his hometown of McKees Rock, Pennsylvania.