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Jim Kelly, Pat LaFontaine receive national honor

By Tim Graham

A pair of Buffalo sports legends has been honored with a prestigious national award for their community service.

Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly and Hall of Fame hockey player Pat LaFontaine were chosen for this year's Jefferson Awards.

The Jefferson Awards are sponsored by the American Institute for Public Service, founded in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, U.S. Senator Robert Taft Jr. and Sam Beard as the Nobel Prize for community work.

A total of 17 people around the country were selected this year. Past recipients include Jimmy Carter, Bob Hope, Colin Powell and Oprah Winfrey.

Kelly was chosen for his work with Hunter's Hope Foundation, which raises money and awareness for Krabbe Disease and newborn medical screening.

"During the years I played in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills, community service and reaching out to others was such an important part of my role with the team," Kelly said in a statement distributed for the Jefferson Awards. "Not only did I feel that I had a responsibility to give back to a community that I was fortunate enough to be a part of, but I also knew that I had an incredible opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others.

"Although my playing days are over, my platform has greatly expanded and my commitment to community is stronger than ever. I feel privileged to be able to do the work I am doing. I would never have been able to do it without a team effort, whether it was football, family or charity. I am very blessed."

LaFontaine was honored for his work with Champions in Courage, which evolved from his philanthropic efforts here at Women and Children's Hospital. The former Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders and New York Rangers star forward has raised millions to help children and their families cope with prolonged hospitalizations.

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |