CINCINNATI — Madeline Hall struggled to find a silver lining in watching Buffalo Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin suffer a life-threatening emergency Monday night in Cincinnati. But if there is one, she said, it’s the way people have come together to show immense support for Hamlin, his family and the medical team working to save his life.
What You Need To Know
- Buffalo Bills fan Madeline Hall stayed in Cincinnati following Monday night’s game to say thank you to the UC Medical Center staff who treated Damar Hamlin
- Hall worked with three local restaurants to have lunches and dinners catered for hospital staff the past few days
- Her company, BFS Brand, donates a portion of its proceeds to feed medical workers every year
- Hall’s efforts exemplify a national push to show support for Hamlin and his family
Hall was in town to host a 500-person Bills tailgate party with Game Day Hospitality ahead of the Monday Night Football match. She and a few others walked in 20 minutes late because they were busy cleaning up when they saw an ambulance on the field and CPR being performed on a player.
“We were just like, ‘What is going on?’” she recalled.
What was going on was Hamlin had suffered cardiac arrest after tackling Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins early in the first quarter. After resuscitating Hamlin on the field, medical personnel rushed him to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
Doctors noted “remarkable progress” in Hamlin’s condition on Thursday, but he remains in the hospital’s intensive care unit in critical condition, according to UC physicians.
The horrific scene stuck with Hall long after she left the stadium that night, she said. While having lunch the next morning with a few friends, she was making plans to return to Buffalo that day when she thought, “Why would I go home? There’s more I can do here.”
In Buffalo, Hall’s company, BFS Brand — a food blog with a clothing line — uses a portion of its proceeds to provide meals for health care workers as a thank you for their efforts.
On Tuesday, she reached out to the Thurman Thomas Family Foundation — a Buffalo-based charity run by Bills legend Thurman Thomas and his wife — to see if they’d go in on with Hall to drop food off at the hospital.
Within an hour they had a restaurant lined up and funding to pay to cater lunch for more than 100 staff members at UC Medical Center and Hamlin’s family, Hall said.
“It was amazing,” said Hall. “They invited me in, and I got to meet a bunch of the doctors and nurses working on the floor. They were all so appreciative of what we were doing, but really this was just about saying thank you to them for their extraordinary work.”
Over the last few days, Hall and company have raised money to provide hundreds of meals for the doctors, nurses, paramedics and other health care workers in the emergency room and ICU at UC Medical Center who are working to save the lives of Hamlin and dozens of others.
BFS Brand, the Thurman Thomas Family Foundation and Game Day Entertainment partnered with Condado Tacos, Bridges Nepali Cuisine and City Barbeque to make daily food deliveries during lunchtime and dinner.
“Since Day 1, it’s been the mission of BFS Brand to give back to health care workers,” Hall said. “It’s just so exciting that I get to show that appreciation to medical workers in places other than just Buffalo.”
‘People want to help in whatever way they can’
To operate the meal program the last few days, Hall and her friend, Lauren Carducci, needed to find a place to crash while in Cincinnati. Even though they haven’t seen each other much in recent years, Hall’s high school friend allowed them to stay in his apartment for the week.
Hall and Carducci spent Tuesday through Thursday rotating between the hospital and their friend’s apartment. They’re sharing a one-person air mattress in the middle of her friend’s living room.
They made their most recent drop-off Thursday afternoon at lunchtime. Lauren, who Hall calls Lo, has to get back to Buffalo on Friday for work, though.
“If more money still comes through, I might try to pull something off and go donate some more food before we leave and then figure out what to do after that,” Hall said.
The plan is to move forward even if they’re no longer in town, she added. After a post on social media Thursday night, Hall raised more than $2,000 for food for hospital workers on Thursday and Friday.
They’ll send another round of meals later this week.
“People just want to help in whatever they can,” she said.
Since Hamlin’s incident, support has come in from athletes, celebrities, football fans and almost every corner of the United States.
Hamlin’s Chasing M’s Foundation has raised nearly $7 million through donations since his incident. Hamlin created the foundation in December 2020 to raise money to provide toys for needy children.
More than 200,000 donations — averaging about $32 — came in less than 48 hours.
Game Day Hospitality plans to donate proceeds from the sale of its remaining tailgate parties, including this Sunday’s in Buffalo against the Patriots, to the Chasing M’s Foundation. The event on Sunday is on Abbott Road in Buffalo, next to O’Neill’s Stadium Bar.
Jeff Ruby, a Cincinnati-based restaurateur who catered a dinner for the Hamlin family Wednesday night at the hospital, told the Cincinnati Enquirer — a Spectrum News partner — that he wanted to give back to Hamlin’s family because he could relate to what they were going through.
In July 1987, Ruby suffered a severe brain injury that landed him in the UC Medical Center. He said doctors gave him a 5% chance of survival.
Hall described the outpouring of support as a “make-up” Christmas for the people of Buffalo who “didn’t get a holiday” because of the recent fatal snowstorm.
“What happened on Monday was terrible, but the positive I will say is that I felt so connected with the community,” she said. “I had family members asking how they could help, of course, but also complete strangers and people I haven’t talked to in years.”
Hall also praised the people of Cincinnati and Buffalo for their round-the-clock show of support for the Hamlin family.
“The vigils and the signs of support outside the hospital are so beautiful,” she said.
Hall called the response by Bengals fans and the Cincinnati community “beyond amazing.” She showed a special appreciation for the large “Who Dey” (Bengals chant) sign colored in the Bills’ red and blue colors.
She plans to invite everyone in Cincinnati to their next tailgate outside Paycor Stadium. They have special plans, including free tickets, for many of Cincinnati’s health care workers, Hall said.
“All the Bills fans had to go home, so every time that we dropped off food to the hospital and went downstairs, or went down there to go look at the memorial and talk to everyone, it was all Bengals fans,” she added. “It’s really been beautiful.”