BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — More than $50,000 has been donated to honor the late Pancho Billa's last request.
"We wish to honor Ezra's request and ask that everyone wear their favorite team jersey to the service. In lieu of flowers we ask for kids backpacks with school supplies for Panchospacks for Panchoskids," a statement from his family said.
The organization The Teachers Desk , in partnership with 26shirts , is putting together thousands of backpacks for Western New York children. For every $10 donation, The Teachers Desk is able to put together a backpack with $100 worth of school supplies. With $80,000 donated as of 6 a.m. Saturday, 8,000 kids will go to school next year with new and free school supplies.
"I can’t imagine a better way for Pancho to be remembered in Western New York," John Mikah, the director of The Teachers Desk, said.
Del Reid, the owner of 26shirts and co-founder of Bills Mafia, has a t-shirt called "Pancho Power." He is donating $8 from every sale to Pancho's family. Since Tuesday, he has sold more than 600 shirts. That's at least $4,200.
"He made sure he shook every persons hand. He took a picture with every other fan that wanted one," Reid said.
The Facebook page Backpacks for Pancho is helping facilitate backpack drop offs for anyone who wants to put one together. So far, dozens of places have said they are accepting backpacks in Poncho's name. JJ's Casa Di Pizza is even offering a large pizza to anyone who brings a backpack to the restaurant.
"Here's a guy from Texas who loved the Buffalo Bills as much as we did, and if we can honor him because he liked our team as much as we did, then that is what we are going to do," Jeff Jacobbi, owner of JJ's Casa Di Pizza, said.
A service to honor his life will happen Saturday in Irving, Texas. A memorial here in Buffalo will happen from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in front of New Era Field.
"People being gone but yet their names live on their purposes lives on and who they are lives on," Mikah said.
Pancho Billa will certainly be remembered here in Buffalo. Whether it's on the thousands of backpacks that were donated in his honor, the t-shirts that bare his name, and in our hearts Pancho will always be with us.