ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- When Ted Washington was young and poor, he promised things would be different when he grew up. He wanted to do everything he could for others if he struck it rich.
Little did Washington know he would wind up making millions of dollars in the NFL or how far he would go to fulfill his pledge.
The Buffalo Bills defensive lineman is one of the most generous players in a league that seems to get more attention nowadays for the ones who commit crimes.
With his own charitable foundation he established in 1998, Washington has made it his mission to give. He hands out thousands of pairs of shoes annually, plays Santa every Christmas to donate toys, and offers advice and hope to all.
He also has organized a football camp for hundreds of children at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center near Twentynine Palms, Calif., in the Mojave Desert.
''I am excited,'' he said after returning recently from the camp. ''I would like to start something like that here. If I can do that, man, I'd be on top of the world. And money has nothing to do with it.
''It's just something I love doing, working with these kids.''
The idea of a football camp came from conversations Washington had with his stepbrother, Alan Hall, who is stationed at the base.
Hall told Washington how difficult it was for the community's youth to be motivated and inspired in such a desolate place, about an hour from Palm Springs.
''They're isolated,'' Washington said. ''They never had an athlete or a celebrity come out and do anything with the kids that are on the base. ... I came away very happy with the way things turned out.
''The kids learned a lot, and I got rave reviews from parents, saying, 'Oh, my god, you touched my kid. I never thought anybody could do that.'''
That's repayment enough for the 6-foot-4, 325-pound Washington, who may be regarded as nasty and relentless for the way he attacks opposing offensive lines but is known as Teddy Bear when he's around kids.
''His rapport with the children is exceptional,'' said Joe Rosselli, the base's youth sports director. ''He's a great motivator.''
So much for the perception that today's athletes -- NFL players in particular -- don't care or are too busy making headlines for misdeeds.
Since Washington arrived in Buffalo in 1995, he has made a considerable impact.
It's to kids that he devotes most of his time, seeing in them what he saw in himself while growing up in Tampa, Fla.
His father, also Ted Washington, played for the Houston Oilers for 10 years and was never around before he and his wife divorced, the younger Washington said. His mother and grandmother struggled to raise the family.
''Nobody was there to help us out, and that was bad. All the neighbors, nothing, not even a glass of water,'' Washington recalled. ''I'm like, 'It can't be like this. You won't get rewarded by not helping somebody when they need it.'''
''It worked out the better for me. It made me a stronger man, a stronger father, a stronger person.''
The 32-year-old Washington, who lives in the Buffalo area with his wife, Verlisa, and four children, has earned a second straight nomination for Pro Football Weekly's humanitarian award, whose winner will be announced later this month.
''I'm just being a good guy, helping out as much as I can,'' he said.
Stories of Washington's charitable works abound.
Last Thanksgiving, Washington and teammate Pat Williams bought 500 turkeys and donated them to inner-city families.
Last December, after reading about a single mother with four children living in a run-down apartment in Niagara Falls, Washington tracked her down and provided her with toys and money.
Then there is his work with the local Multiple Sclerosis foundation, to which Washington donates $50 for every tackle he makes.
''He's always saying, 'Call me. Don't call my agent. Call me directly,'' MS Society development director Kathleen Lynch said. ''He wants to be hands-on. That doesn't happen with a lot of professional football players. He takes a personal interest in the campaigns that he's working on. ... You get hold of him and he's a sweetheart.''
So, Washington has fulfilled the promise he made to himself so many years ago, to ''go back and take care of the kids and give them a little hope for the future.''
He's done that, in Buffalo and in a lonely place called Twentynine Palms.
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