Worldwide Browns Backers clubs donated nearly $250,000 to charities in 2013
It takes heart to be a Cleveland Browns fan.
It takes heart to stick with a team that has struggled for so long while maintaining the hope that good times are ahead.
But Browns fans don't only show their heart by showing up at FirstEnergy Stadium or gathering in front of television sets around the world to watch their favorite team play.
Browns fans show their heart by giving. In 2013, Worldwide Browns Backers clubs donated nearly $250,000 to charities in their respective locations and/or to the Cleveland Browns Foundation. And that doesn't include donations of food and other goods.
"Little is known about the Worldwide Browns Backers clubs being very passionate about supporting their communities where their local chapters are based," said Paul Fabri, president of the North Coast Browns Backers of Medina, Ohio. "Many clubs raise thousands of dollars to help nationally known charities, but the help that they do for their own communities is most dear to their hearts. Many clubs donate food items for their local food bank, support individuals and families of their community, and some even have scholarships for the students of their community."
The North Coast Backers made $6,800 in donations last year, according to Fabri, who also is a Browns season-ticket holder. Similar contributions have been made from the 370 clubs and their 113,500 members.
As Fabri points out, Worldwide Browns Backers pride themselves on "going the extra mile" to support the team. Their clubs get together to watch every game, usually at a restaurant, as well as at FirstEnergy Stadium.
They also can always be found, in strong numbers, at Browns road games.
Former Browns linebacker Dick Ambrose recalled how impressed he was with the depth of knowledge about the team that a fan displayed while greeting the Browns for their arrival in Lincoln, Neb., for a 1976 preseason game against the Baltimore Colts.
"There was a gentleman there that was naming all of the players as we got off the plane, telling us what our colleges were," he said. "It's just amazing how much of a following the Browns have around the country. It was really an eye-opener for me as a player."
Said Fabri, "Utilizing my local Browns Backer chapter makes our club members feel like they are part of the Cleveland Browns team and helps us show the world that the Worldwide Browns Backers have their backs."
Many Browns players have recognized that support through the years.
Ambrose immediately connected with the tremendous passion of the team's fan base when he arrived in Cleveland in 1975 as a 12th-round draft pick from Virginia. He spent nine seasons playing with the team, and although he was from New Rochelle, N.Y., he made Northeast Ohio his home after football.
Ambrose became an attorney and is now a Cuyahoga County common pleas judge. His connection with Browns fans played a significant role in his decision to remain in Northeast Ohio, where he and his wife, Mary Beth, raised three daughters.
"As a Browns player, whatever your stripes were before you got here, once you became a Brown, everything else is forgotten," Ambrose said. "The community adopted you, the community loved you. That's one of the main reasons why I chose to stay here after my playing career was done, just because this community was so welcoming and made you a part of the community. There was kind of a bond that was created just from having played for the Browns that I really didn't see the point in trying to break and go somewhere else and start over.
"I'm sure every team can say the same thing about their fans and give it a lot of lip service, but my experience since coming here has been that Browns fans are different than other teams' fans because of their consistency in loving their team no matter what," Ambrose said. "And there's been a lot of no matter what, yet the fan base is still there. And I just think that sets us apart from other communities, other cities."
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