Sunday morning as David Woolever left Hornell with his family for Buffalo Bills training camp, he started to hear the news.

A group of white nationalists had started a march on the University of Virginia campus Friday night and by Saturday morning they were wearing helmets, waving Confederate and Nazi flags with shields in their hands and Nazi chants coming out of their mouths.

As a result, counter-protestors gathered, and things were fine until 11 a.m. but moments later, tempers escalated and fights started. One woman died and two troopers who flew in to help also died in a crash.

Bills camp started at 2:15 p.m. and Woolever looked at his 7-year-old son and had one thought in his mind: How do I teach my son about this world, how to make the right decision?

Race, religion, gender, where you live, nothing should matter. He thought, “It shouldn’t matter, but you can’t ignore it. How do I teach him skin color does not make a difference?”

Practice continued for the Buffalo Bills. The members of the Woolever family are huge fans. They had a great time during practice and were ready to head back to Hornell, but many people were waiting by the exit of the stadium to get autographs. A group of kids who knew where to stand took all the best spots.

Woolever’s son is not pushy, but he wanted to see the players and get an autograph, so he stood patiently behind the other children.

A few players came out and others were signing. There was an African-American child in front of them. A woman saw him and asked if he wanted to come to the front. The child did and was able to get a few autographs.

It appeared Woolever’s son was going to go home empty-handed without an autograph.

Suddenly something happened.

“As we waited, more players began coming out and the same kid (who was about his age) turned around and, without prompting, asked my son if he wanted him to get his ball signed,” said Woolever. “He even offered to bring my son up to the front. He declined to go to the front because he didn’t enjoy the crowd that much, but the boy got the ball signed.”

Veteran linebacker Sam Barrington stayed the extra minute, got the ball and signed it. The child turned around and handed him the ball.

My wife and I were touched ... this child is my hero … twice he went out of his way to do something for someone else. It should not matter, but this child was an African-American boy and I, my son and wife are white,” said Woolever. “As I listened to the events occurring in Charlottesville, my experience was very different.

“As a father, I wish for my children to be like that boy, someone who is not only interested in himself but genuinely wants to share the world with others. That boy could teach the world that instead of taking and being selfish, it’s better to give and be kind,” Woolever continued. “I think if we look around our world enough, stop tuning in to Facebook and television news and start to view our world through our own experience, not vicariously through others, I would bet there would be more moments of hope like my wife and I had. I am so grateful for this young man and his kindness.”

The “hero,” the other child who helped a kid he did not know from Hornell, had received another autograph from someone who also took the time to sign for everyone. Except this man was not a current player.

The boy who helped get the autograph showed the signature on his hat to Woolever. The beautiful large J and K and the No. 12 was easy to see. David smiled. It was none other than former Bills and NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly.

“That child is a leader of the best kind and, as I looked at the Jim Kelly signature on his hat, I thought to myself one thing: He deserved that signature.”

As adults continue to argue what happened and why in Charlottesville, two 7-year-old children at Buffalo Bills training camp are proof the world might someday be a much better place.

 

—John Anderson is the regional editor of The Daily Reporter