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Bills' Milano, Davis give lift-changing gift

Sal Maiorana
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

The Buffalo Bills are responsible for some pretty remarkable video clips this season, from Josh Allen making dozens of eye-popping plays right through to the Dec. 13 51-yard game-changing interception return touchdown by Taron Johnson.

But none of those football-specific videos that have thrilled Bills fans this season can match the joy, the meaning, or the life-long impact of the one that surfaced recently of 8-year-old Jackson Delude enjoying a trip to Disney World walking on new prosthetic legs gifted to him by linebacker Matt Milano and wide receiver Gabriel Davis.

“It was unreal, to be honest,” Milano said when he was asked to share his feeling after seeing the video, and also of the Zoom call he and Davis had with the little boy from Buffalo who was born without fully-formed legs which were promptly amputated. “I almost started crying a little bit, just to see how happy he was and how he was in another world. You could tell how much of a difference it made for him. It really touched my heart.”

Bills Gabriel Davis (13) celebrates his touchdown catch agains the Steelers.

The gesture has touched the hearts of everyone who has learned of the story, but no one more than young Jackson himself.

“Now when I get back to my school I can keep up with my friends and participate in stuff,” Jackson told the players in the Zoom call. “Thank you. That’s all because of you guys.”

Acts of kindness are not uncommon in the NFL as many players are out either in their team or hometown communities – some in both – contributing their time and money to charitable causes. But the direct connection Milano and Davis had with this particular boy perhaps sets this apart.

Milano and Davis both hail from the Orlando area and they train at a facility there in the offseason where they see people – adults and children – struggling to perform the simple things in life that many of us take for granted.

“Where we go train and get our work done, you see young kids that are born with these abnormal qualities, if they are missing a limb, missing an arm, missing a leg,” Davis said. “Then they’re working on how to walk, how to write, things like that.”

They learned of Jackson’s situation and decided to do something about it. They paid for Jackson and his mother, Ashley, to fly to Orlando to get the prosthetic blades, and also for their lodging and visit to the Disney theme parks.

“Just to see some kids’ life change is pretty awesome,” said Davis. “We take little things like that for granted and that was his dream, to be able to run and walk and the fact that he’s able to do that with the blades is unreal. And I’m happy that me and Matt were able to team up and get him what he needs, get him a trip to Disney, be able to do fun things like that.”

Milano said it’s obviously “cool” for he and Davis to do something like this, but he added, “I think it’s even better for (Jackson). He gets to live the rest of his life like that, being able to run and jump and do the things that all his friends are doing. So, I think it touched him more than it really touched us.”

When he was first fitted for the blades, Jackson said, “It was a little bit weird at first but once I got used to it, I really liked them.”

“What stuck out to me,” said Davis, “was when he said how he can run around all day and not have cuts on his legs from the prosthetics (he used to wear). I’m just so happy that he has a good set of blades that he can use for a long time, and whenever those grow old and he starts growing, he gets a new pair. I told him we have to race when I see him. He keeps talking about how he’s fast and he can do all this, so we’re gonna see.”

Ashley Delude said she looks forward to the day when the pandemic is over, and she can arrange for Jackson to meet the two players in person. When Davis said he’d throw the football around, Ashley said, “Do your stretching.” Meaning, Davis better be ready, “So you can keep up with him.”

She then added, “Thank you so much to both of you. There’s nothing I can say to show you how much we appreciate you guys doing this, you guys are amazing. You guys are great role models for him to look up to.”