Sunday afternoon, the Buffalo Bills hosted the Cincinnati Bengals in the home opener. With a 2-0 record, the residents of upper New York were riding high and ready to put on a dominant performance. First, however, they needed to honor a beloved member of the Bills Mafia that passed away on May 14 after a battle with Stage 4 cancer.
Prior to kickoff on Sunday, team owners Terry and Kim Pegula presented game balls and No. 19 Bills jerseys with "Pancho Billa" on the back to members of Castro's family that were in attendance.
Those on hand included his girlfriend, Veronica Borjon, their son, Gino, and Castro's mother, Aurora Martinez. Gino wore the Lucha libre mask and sombrero that his father had made famous while rallying the Bills fans.
In addition to the game balls awarded to Castro's family, the Bills also included several children in the ceremony. These youngsters were recipients of "Pancho Packs" as part of a request that Castro had made prior to his passing. Instead of having flowers brought to his funeral, the Bills superfan requested that donations be made to Teacher's Desk in Buffalo in order to provide backpacks to children in need.
"I had no idea that one man's dream…just one man's little wish could make such a difference for so many children," Executive Director of The Teacher's Desk, John Mika said, per the Bills website. "He didn't want flowers and I'm so grateful that he said he wanted school supplies for kids because it's really allowed us to pour in $1.3 million in school supplies into 10,000 children. To me, that's amazing."
This pre-game ceremony capped off a weekend of tributes to Pancho Billa. Hundreds of fans gathered on Sunday to host a tailgate/wake in his honor at the Hammer Lot. Castro's family was also in attendance and welcomed the opportunity to honor his memory.
Pancho Billa may have passed away after his battle with cancer, but his impact on the Bills Mafia will not be forgotten. These fans will continue to honor his memory during every game, and it appears that his son will be donning the mask for the foreseeable future. As the video of him entering the stadium shows, young Gino is just as invested in the team as his father was.