SOME THINGS JUST SEEM DESTINED TO HAPPEN.
Brian Moorman met Taylor Speth when Taylor was just six years old and in the midst of chemotherapy for a brain tumor. Neither of them knew it that day, but it was a meeting that would change not only their lives, but the lives of many others.
In 2001, Brian and his wife, Amber, moved to Buffalo, N.Y., where Brian had joined the Buffalo Bills as a free agent. One of the first things the young transplants from Kansas sought to do was to become involved in the community.
“We both had been involved in the community at home,” Brian said, “And we always enjoyed being involved with kids.” An official with the Bills steered them toward the Roswell Park Cancer Center.
Taylor met Brian in November at a holiday card party for pediatric cancer patients at the Bills practice facility.
“My parents wanted to take a tour of the locker room,” Taylor recalled. “I wasn’t too thrilled about it, but I went and Brian was the tour guide. My parents started talking with him. I talked with him a little bit, but not too much. It was more my parents. Afterward, he came over and sat down with me and we started painting together and talking.”
Something clicked between the two of them.
“I just hit it off with him,” Brian said.
It was the same for Taylor.
“We had a lot to talk about,” Taylor said. “We really did enjoy talking to each other.”
Today, Taylor Speth is a cheerful high school sophomore with dreams of a career (he’s thinking maybe architecture) and life after school. For Taylor, the chemotherapy ended long ago, but the friendship that began that day just seems to get stronger every year.
Brian recalls that meeting as the first step in a process that led to a major effort to help young cancer patients and their families.
“We started going up as much as we could and being with the kids,” Brian said.
Soon, Brian and Amber decided that they wanted to do more than just visit the kids. In 2004, they founded the P.U.N.T Foundation to serve both the pediatric cancer patients and their families with programs and events designed to help them in their shared battle with the disease.
The foundation sponsors a number of programs, including Brian’s Locker, which includes games, books and activities for the patients and gift cards for groceries, gas and phone services for the families. At Brian’s Game Day, patients and their families sit in a private suite for a Bills home game, and the Helping Hands program offers families financial support for their daily living expenses.
“A lot of folks are involved in research,” Amber said, “and that’s very important. “What we try to do is provide emotional and financial support for the children and their families. We try to take their minds off of it a little bit.”
The Moormans said their focus on helping families was born out of admiration for the families they met.
- One of the best punters in the NFL
- Two-time Pro Bowler
- Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for excellent play on the field and contributions to the community
- Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s Hero Award
- Pro Football Weekly Arthur S. Arkush Humanitarian of the Year Award
- Sporting News “Good Guys” selection
“You meet these families and you think about them all the time,” Moorman said. “The parents are so positive. You just wonder how they do it.”
Amber, who gave birth to the Moormans’ first child, Cooper, in 2010, said being a new mother has only increased her admiration for the parents she sees.
“Now I can put myself in their shoes,” Amber said. “The parents are amazing.”
Kristen Fix, a social worker at Roswell Park, said the Moormans and their P.U.N.T. Foundation have helped many young patients and their families.
“What Brian and Amber have done for our families, by extending themselves to our kids here and establishing this foundation, is immeasurable. The smiles that a visit from Brian and Amber elicits are priceless,” Fix said.”
The simple things that many people don’t even think about, like gas money and groceries, become of huge importance to these families-even those middle and upper class families who many think should be able to manage just fine-most people do not budget for something like this to happen to their family. The look of relief and appreciation on a parent’s face when you hand them a gift card from the P.U.N.T. foundation is one I never forget. It is these small things that mean the world to these families.”
Taylor’s parents, Bruce and Debbie Speth, say the greatest gift Brian and Amber Moorman have given their family is friendship.
“Brian and Amber have fostered a relationship with us as a family and provided all of us with emotional support over the years,” Bruce Speth said. “Whenever we visit with them, they bolster Taylor’s spirit and make him and us feel special. Brian puts a smile on Taylor’s face and always takes an interest in his wellbeing and what is going on in his life. Brian has used his gift of athletics to help kids, make them feel better and make their families feel better. We hope that our son, Taylor, will be like that someday.”
Taylor said that all the work Brian and Amber have done for young cancer patients and their families has been important, but what he values most is their friendship.
“I think out of all the things Brian’s helped me with and given me,” Taylor said, “the best thing is just to be there, to be able to talk to them. I just think that’s a great thing that he does.”
Comments like that seem to embarrass Brian and Amber just a bit.
“What we’re doing is small compared to what they’re going through,” Brian said.
Brian said he and Amber get back every bit as much or maybe even more than they give from their relationships with Taylor and the other youngsters they’ve come to know.
“There are days when we’ve have a bad day and maybe it would be easier not to go (to the cancer center). But afterward, we look at each other and say, ‘I’m so glad we came today.’ I find myself asking, ‘Did I help them, or did they help me?'”
For more on Brian and Amber Moorman’s P.U.N.T. Foundation and the programs it sponsors, visit www.brianmoorman.org.