Former Bills, Browns guard Joe DeLamielleure to raise awareness with HOF walk

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2013

Often lost in the offseason stampede of NFL rumors, free agent signings and off-field player incidents is the numerous charitable contributions made by current and former players.

After experiencing 13 NFL seasons, former Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills guard Joe DeLamielleure is no stranger to sacrificing his body on the football field. However, in recent years, the Pro Football Hall of Famer has undertaken physical sacrifice in the name of deserving individuals who won't see themselves on Sunday night highlight reels.

Along with a pair of former Michigan State teammates, DeLamielleure once biked 2,000 miles to help raise money for "The City of Children" orphanage in Matamoros, Mexico. 

This year, DeLamielleure will embark on another impressive journey for a completely different, but equally noteworthy cause.

According to the Plain Dealer, the 62-year-old DeLamielleure plans to walk 213 miles from Buffalo, New York (where he began his pro football career with the Bills in 1973) to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio in order to raise awareness and money for children in need of prosthesis.

The "Joe D: Pounding the Pavement for Prosthetics" walk is set to begin at Ralph Wilson Stadium on July 10 and former Bills teammates are expected to accompany DeLamielleure through the first few stages of the trip.

“When I played in the East-West Shrine Game in (1973), I was given a plaque that read: ‘Strong legs run so that weak legs may walk,' ” said DeLamielleure, via the Plain Dealer. “That saying always stuck with me. I had no idea what people went through to get prosthetics and how costly they were.”

Like most people, the plight of children in need of prosthetics had likely been unknown to Delamielleure before the eight-time all-pro befriended 20-year-old Joey Funderburk, who was born in Romania without legs due to a birth defect.

Funderburk, who had been forced to utilize the same set of prosthetic legs since age eight, earned publicity by selling doughnuts in South Carolina in order to try to raise the $120,000 required to purchase a new set of prosthetics.

While charitable contributions finally allowed Funderburk to walk on a new set of legs for the first time last December, many similar cases exist as part of a world-wide problem that has largely flown under the radar.

With this summer's charity walk, DeLamielleure hopes to change that.

Proceeds from the charity walk will go to support Grace's Lamp, a charity founded by Funderburk's adoptive mother, Chrystal, of which DeLamielleure is a board member.

“This is a young man who was brought to this country by his adoptive mother,” said DeLamielleure, a father of two of his own adopted children. “He couldn’t walk, he couldn’t speak a word of English and now look at him.” 

While many of today's stars seem to spend their offseasons searching for a place in the spotlight, it is truly comforting to know that some of the game's greats are using their place in it for a greater good.

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