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Ralph Wilson Watched Caregivers Struggle and Was Moved by That, Says Foundation President

The charitable foundation funded by the estate of the late Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson has 20 years to grant $1.2 billion to non-profit organizations in his hometown of Detroit and in Western New York.

That was the only mandate Wilson gave to his life trustees before his death in 2014.  David Egner, president and CEO of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, said Wilson wanted to make sure that his money made a significant impact and that the people he knew would still be around when it was being distributed.

Egner says it's no surprise that some of those grants will fund programs in Western New York.

"There's no question that he had a love affair with Western New York that goes back  54 years with his ownership with the Bills, and how he moved the training camp from south of Buffalo to near Rochester. He thought of the Western New York region as his second home. That certainly wasn't lost on the trustees who decided Western New York needed to be a major focus area."

Wilson wrote a letter to his life trustees two years before his death to ask them to consider grants for organizations that support caregivers.

"With his resources, he was able to get care in a way that made sense, but he watched others who could not get access to good care, and he watched caregivers struggle - particularly those voluntary caregivers, family members who are dealing with someone who has either a chronic or a terminal issue - he was moved by that," Egner said.

Other specific funding areas include children and youth; young adults and working class families; and healthy communities programs. The money comes from the sale of the Buffalo Bills following the death of Ralph Wilson at age 95 in 2014 at his home in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan.

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Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.