CINCINNATI -- Christina and Andrew Turner knew they would do anything for their son, William, from the moment he was born.
But when they learned two years later that William was autistic, they struggled to afford the $20,000-per-year treatment they hoped would help him grow up with the ability to live a fulfilling, independent life.
"It doesn't matter how good your job is or how good your insurance is," Christina Turner said. "When those medical bills start coming in for whatever special need it is, it can go from zero to thousands in just a month. Less than a month."
While working with a financial advocate at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, Turner learned her family could be eligible for help from the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation's Pass It On Fund.
The charity, which was founded by Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and his wife, Jordan, in 2011, helps the families of severely ill and disabled children afford treatment, support and the occasional fun night out on top of it all.
"We got the call about two months after we turned in the application," Turner said. "It gave us hope. … He's come a long way. He's talking more; he can express his wants and needs. Without that, I don't think he'd be where he is."
William is 6 years old today, and the foundation that helped him afford the higher-level therapies he needed is receiving hundreds of thousands in donations from an unlikely source: Fans of the Buffalo Bills, an NFL team whose dearly held and long-denied playoff hopes Dalton finally made reality with a Dec. 31 touchdown pass that knocked the Baltimore Ravens out of contention.
— Andy Dalton (@andydalton14) January 6, 2018
More than $300,000 in donations from the ‘Bills Mafia' will directly enable children like William to receive life-changing help from the Dalton Foundation. To William's father, Andrew Turner, that intervention is a beacon of hope for families who want their children to enjoy their rightful share of love, happiness and success in life.
"One program may make the difference between him being an independent adult and being a dependent adult," Turner said.
To Dalton Foundation board member Nick Vehr, it's a symbol of everything good about sports and sports fanbases. Dalton uses his fame to give back to the Cincinnati community, and the "Bills Mafia" is channeling its enthusiasm into improving the lives of people who sorely need their help.
"The one thing we know in sports is passion," Vehr said. "That passion has been translated into good, into concrete ways that are going to help families with very sick children. How does it get any better than that?"