Damar Hamlin Makes First Public Speaking Appearance as He Wins NFL Community Service Award

The Buffalo Bills safety, who suffered cardiac arrest during a game in January, raised over $9 million for a toy drive fundraiser for his community

Damar Hamlin is feeling "thankful" as he is recognized for his significant charity work a month after suffering cardiac arrest.

The 24-year-old Buffalo Bills safety won the NFL Player's Association's Alan Page Community Award on Wednesday, after raising more than $9 million dollars for a toy drive in his community as part of his Chasing M's Foundation.

"Giving back to my community has always been a big part of who I am," Hamlin said while receiving the award, his first public speaking appearance since his collapse. "I'm thankful to my father who's right here behind me. Growing up, just watching him do community days in our community and I always [was] just waiting on my time when it came."

Buffalo Bills' Damar Hamlin, right, speaks after being introduced as the winner of the Alan Page Community Award during a news conference ahead of the Super Bowl 57 NFL football game, in Phoenix. At left looking on are Damar Hamlin's parents Mario and Nina Hamlin Super Bowl Football, Phoenix, United States - 08 Feb 2023
Mike Stewart/AP/Shutterstock

"One of my favorite quotes: 'It's a blessing to be a blessing.' With that being said, I plan to never take this position for granted and always have an urgent approach in making a difference in the community where I come from and also communities across the world. Thank you," he added.

He later posted a collage of photos on Instagram with the award and the $100,000 check to his foundation, along with backstage photos from throughout the night.

Hamlin captioned the post: "Simple Law Of Attraction✨What You Put In, Is What You Get Out Of Everything You Attach Yourself To... @nflpa Thank-You For The Recognition Of My Work In The Community. More Work To Be Done. 🏆3️⃣🙏🏾"

Hamlin had started the drive prior to his cardiac arrest incident on Jan. 2., but his injury on field helped put a spotlight on his charity efforts. Following his hospitalization, many fans gravitated to his fundraiser as a means of showing support for him.

Several big names stepped up to drop huge donations, including former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady who contributed $10,000, pro-wrestler Chris Jericho who added $10,000 and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft who donated $18,003, among many others.

Pittsburgh defensive back Damar Hamlin poses for a photo with Bryce Williams, 3, of McKees Rocks, Pa., after the youngster picked out a toy during Hamlin's Chasing M's Foundation community toy drive at Kelly and Nina's Daycare Center, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, in McKees Rocks, Pa. (Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)
Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP

With the fundraiser far surpassing the $2,500 goal originally set, Hamlin said he plans to use the rest of the money to support students in education and sports, per WNBC. He is working with The Giving Back Fund — a non profit organization set up to help professional athletes and other celebrities give back — to start up the "The Chasing M's Foundation" Charitable Fund.

He said that he would also use proceeds from the sales of t-shirts displaying the words "Did We Win?" along with his hands in the shape of a heart, to raise money for the trauma center in Cincinnati, where he received treatment, per NPR.

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Hamlin's friend and business partner Jordon Rooney recently told ESPN that the Buffalo Bills safety "still has a lengthy recovery" ahead of him, "despite being out of the hospital."

But he added that as Hamlin continues his road to recovery, he remains "upbeat and positive and ready to continue to overcome this."

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