Coach Tim Bergan knows Jim Kelly is an ordinary guy.
Sure, Kelly’s K-Gun offense led those legendary Buffalo Bills teams to four straight Super Bowl appearances. He’s a 5-time Pro Bowler and a Hall of Famer, and will go down as one of the best to ever play his position. These things are extraordinary. You’d think being in the spotlight all of these years would change the kid from western Pennsylvania, but nothing could be further from the truth. Kelly’s demeanor does not cast celebrity.
In a region where sports reign supreme, we immortalize our legends. A small market city like Buffalo gives fans a chance to interact with their favorite players on the field or ice in a way most other cities can’t relate to. You may see Thurman Thomas in the grocery store; you may bump into Gilbert Perreault at the gas station. This is what makes Buffalo so special. This is why we have such an intimate connection with the ones we cheer for.
When news of the passing of Kelly’s son Hunter went public, the entirety of Western New York - and beyond - mourned. And when the Kelly family founded Hunter’s Hope, a foundation dedicated to helping the families with children affected by Krabbe Leukodystrophy, Western New York rallied behind them.
On Monday, August 8, Elkdale Country Club in Salamanca will host the Hunter’s Hope Golf Tournament. Bergan, a friend of Jim for over 30 years, has taken the task of spearheading the event.
“We’ve got 144 players signed up, and it’s been sold out for two weeks,” Bergan said. “The goal is to raise between $20,000 - $25,000 for the Hunter’s Hope Foundation. It will be the biggest tournament Elkdale has ever hosted, and Jim will be there with 39 of his closest friends. I’m honored to be able to help Jim in such a way.”
Over 30 years ago, Bergan submitted an application to help at the Jim Kelly Football Camp. He returned every year for the next 10, forging an eternal bond with both Jim and Jim’s high school coach Terry Henley.
“Ever since then, we’ve maintained a close relationship,” Bergan said. “Jim and I share the attitude that others come before yourself. He’s always been the type of person that wants to help other people before he helps himself. He doesn’t want to be treated like a celebrity - he wants to be treated like an ordinary guy who’s mission is to make the lives of those around him better.”
Bergan, who led Ellicottville Central School’s football teams to over 150 wins as head coach, is a member of the New York State High School Football Hall of Fame. One of his reference letters? Written by none other than Jim Kelly.
“He’s always been the type of person who will go out of his way to help you,” Bergan said. “I had a student that was blind. I told Jim, who brought him to camp and played catch with him. A sterling example of his aptness of lifting up those around him.”
The tournament has four levels of sponsorship: $20, $250, $500 and $1,000. Shults Auto Sales will be giving away a car (you don’t need to ace a hole-in-one; the car will be raffled off). On #9, Schuberts will have a poster with names on it ($20 to be a sponsor). If a name on the list gets an ace, they’ll get $1,000, with the other $1,000 going to Hunter’s Hope. If no one gets an ace, all $2,000 will go to Hunter’s Hope.
“I know this tournament will be a huge success, because this community is the type that rallies behind one of its own. Jim’s mantra is helping other people before helping himself.”
Kelly and those Bills teams gave Western New York something to be proud of. They brought a fan base together, forging a lasting bond between player and community. After Kelly retired, he didn’t move to some other city. He stayed in Buffalo, because he understands the power of what this region is about. Even with the adversity he’s gone through, he remains true to putting others before himself.
After all, Jim Kelly is just an ordinary guy.
For more information on the Hunter’s Hope Tournament, call Elkdale Country Club at 716-945-5553 or Coach Bergan at 716-498-2437.