Joe DeLamielleure Pounding the Pavement for Joey
What did you do when you got up this morning? For many people reading this the answer will be “get up” as is stand up and start the day. But for others like 20 year old Joey Funderburk, this may not be the case. Joey was born in Romania with a rare birth defect that left him without full grown legs. After he was born, his birthmother abandoned him in the hospital and never returned. Joey was then placed in an orphanage. He was alone, disabled and had no real understanding of the love of family.
One day, Chrystal, Joey’s soon to be new mother, came to the orphanage and laid eyes on Joey. She knew right then that this boy was special and that she was meant to care for him. “I felt that when I walked into that orphanage and looked into his eyes, I recognized him, and he was mine,” Chrystal said. “From that moment, whatever it would take to get him the life he needed was what I wanted to do.”
It took about a year and a half to get Joey to the United States and another year and a half to get all the necessary things in order to help get Joey ready for prosthetic legs. Doctors and appointments were needed to be set up in order to make sure Joey had everything he needed. Because of his legs not being fully grown, they would need to be amputated to a certain point in order to be fitted for prosthetics. After his surgery, at about eight years old, he was fit for new legs and was able to walk for the first time on his own.
But Joey, as old kids do, would grow. He got taller and bigger physically and he would soon need to be fitted for new legs. From age 8 until 20 Joey was walking on his original set of legs. He was 30 pounds over the suggested limit for the legs and he would periodically fall because they would give way and collapse. The cast would rub on his legs and create sores and bruises on his legs as well. Prosthetic legs are very expensive and Chrystal’s insurance company was not going to cover the cost of the replacements. The cost of a complete set is roughly $120,000.
Joey needed new legs so he and his mom had an idea to sell donuts. Joey would sell 50 boxes of donuts at a small stand with a sign that read “Fund Raiser for Joey’s New Legs”. He raised over $30,000 selling donuts, remarkable yet it was only a quarter of the cost for his legs. Then the popular talk show Doctors TV contacted the family about appearing on their show. They worked with Hanger Clinic and Otto Bock who surprised the family by providing the remaining cost of Joey’s replacement legs. On the show, Chrystal was able to watch as her son walked out on stage in legs that fit him.
This emotional and inspiring story reached former NFL great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe DeLamielleure. DeLamielleure was an offensive lineman was drafted in the first round by the Buffalo Bills in 1973. He is one of the most decorated linemen in NFL history. He was a 6-time Pro Bowler and First Team All-Pro and he was named to the 1970s NFL All-Decade Team. Joe “D” is a man who is very active in helping others. He is a man who has used his physical abilities to raise money for organizations. In 2009, he along with former college teammates Eljay Bowron and John Shinsky rode bicycles from East Lansing, Michigan to Matamoros, Mexico to help raise money for an orphanage in the town of Matamoros. The orphanage is run by John Shinsky.
On Wednesday DeLamielleure embarked on a journey to help raise awareness for people like Joey who need money to help pay for prosthetics. Joe “D” will begin his walk from the 50 yard line at Ralph Wilson Stadium and over the course of 11 days he will walk from Orchard Park to Canton, Ohio. The Pounding the Pavement for Prosthetics walk will be a total of 213 miles.
When Joe “D” met Joey Funderburk back in February, he admits he didn’t know a lot about prosthetics and how people pay for them. “Like everyone else, I saw people with prosthetics and I assumed they got them from medical aid or something like that. But you find out that these people get subsidies until they’re 18 years old but then they don’t get them anymore.” Finding out that the cost of prosthetic limbs was eye opening to DeLamielleure and it motivated him to find a way to help out. “I have always said I wanted to walk to Canton, Ohio for my 10th anniversary (Hall of Fame) which is this year,” he said “ I was just trying to figure out a cause that I could do it for and this one was pretty obvious to me.”
Meeting Joey gave the former Bills and Browns star more perspective on life and how people should approach their day-to-day grind. After meeting Joey, DeLamielleure thinks people in today’s society should be more thankful for what they have. “I met this kid Joey and I go: Wow, we don’t have problems. This kid has no legs, that’s a real problem. That’s how I look at this. This kid Joey he’s the happiest kid in the world and he has no legs. You go down to our orphanage those kids are as happy as they can be.” Joey understands how to be thankful to just be able to walk and that is something that we all shouldn’t take for granted.
Joey Funderburk is equally happy to have Joe D’s help, “(Joe D) is a great guy. You would think a guy with all of (his) credits would be stuck up like a ‘oh yeah, I’m great’ kind of thing. But he is a down to earth, genuine (person). He just wants to help people. We need more people like him.”
DeLamielleure walks for the sole reason of raising awareness for people like Joey. The 62 year old Hall of Famer isn’t looking for attention for himself, but rather the cause he represents. “I’m not a big shot; I’m just a regular guy. It’s not like some superstar is walking somewhere. I’m just a regular guy. If no one was coming and I had no sponsors at all I would still do the walk just to help bring attention to this cause.”
Growing up, DeLamielleure learned from his parents about how to help others and give aid to those in need. He and his wife have carried on the teachings of kindness and helping others. “We adopted two kids, we have four of our own and we raised three other ones. My wife is from a family of eight and I am the ninth of ten kids. We always had extra people in our house. We only had one bathroom. We always had extra people. It’s just our belief that you are here to serve.”
DeLamielleure chooses to take action because he believes that that has a greater impact over a donation. Being a player during the 1970s and 80s, he wasn’t paid like todays athletes and at times things got hard for him and his family after his retirement. “Let’s say I was a millionaire, most people wouldn’t think of walking they’d say here have some money. I actually struggled through life too; we have had our ups and downs financial.”
Joe “D” finds these causes because there is a fire inside him that drives him to help others. The most important thing to him is raising awareness and bringing relief to the issue. “I’m trying to help this class of people with prosthetics and make people aware of it. When people ask me why I do this stuff I say that we didn’t know about breast cancer 25 years ago, people had it but they didn’t know it. Now look at what happens today; everything is pink for a whole month in the NFL to raise awareness for breast cancer. If we get enough people to do this with prosthetics people will be aware of it. That’s all I am trying to do.”
DeLamielleure begins his Pounding the Pavement for Prosthetics walk Wednesday. Along the way he will meet up with Bills Alumni as well as many other former players and friends. The walk is for the Grace’s LAMP foundation. The LAMP stands for Love, Adoption, Missions and Prosthetics. The foundation was started by Joey Funderburk and his family to help others like him receive the medical treatment they need. The foundation also helps families find child that need a loving family through adoption. With the help of Grace’s LAMP every step DeLamielleure takes will be one step closer to helping families and children in need.
Joe “D” has set up a Blog about his walk, for updates, click here
If you would like to donate visit their website at: www.graceslamp.org.
Here is a list of where Joe DeLamielleure will be on his journey:
Ralph Wilson Stadium to the Pro Football Hall of Fame
July, 10 –Day 1
One Bills Drive ‐ Ralph Wilson Stadium ‐ Farnham, NY (21) or Irving, NY (25)
July, 11 – Day 2
Farnham/Irving, NY ‐ Brocton, NY (24) or Portland (26)
North East, PA
July, 12 – Day 3
Brocton/Portland, NY ‐ Ripley, NY(16.5) or North East, PA (24)
North East, PA
July, 13 – Day 4
North East, PA ‐ Erie, PA (21.4) or Fairview, PA (26)
July, 14‐ Day 5
Erie, PA ‐ Conneaut, OH (21.8)
July, 15 – Day 6
Conneaut, OH ‐ Geneva (south), OH (22.4)
July, 16 – Day 7
Geneva (s), OH ‐ Windsor, OH (20)
Newton Falls or Streetsboro, OH
July, 17‐ Day 8
Windsor, OH ‐ Garrettsville, OH (21.6)
Streetsboro, Newton Falls, Kent, OH
July, 18 – Day 9
Garrettsville, OH ‐ Atwater (Rt.224 & 44), OH (21.2)
Akron, Alliance, or Canton, OH
July, 19 – Day 10
Atwater, OH – Canton, OH (20)
July 20 ‐ Day 11
Arrival at 2121 George Halas Drive ‐ Pro Football Hall of Fame
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