The Bills Backers of Southwest Florida were officially formed in March of 1992 by Tom Austin, who served as the Club's first President. Club members attribute the success of the club to the early efforts of Tom Asutin. His dedication and diligence to every detail gave the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida a strong foundation for the Club to grow. The founding Board of Directors consisted of three Officers and six Board Members. The first seated Officers were: Tom Austin - President, Julius Salgado - Vice President, and Shirley Trippany - Secretary/Treasurer. The first seated Board Members were: Michelle Austin, Skip Bentley, LuAnn Boyle, Cy Brancato, Don Brown, and Bill Johnson. This Board was seated for the first two year term. It was decided that after the first year to appoint David Trippany to a Board position to complete the second year of the term. The Bills Backers of Southwest Florida are members in good standing of Bills Backers International and governed by By-Laws drafted by the founding Board of Directors.
The Club's first home was Pott's Sports Bar, in South Fort Myers, which we out grew after the first year. The Club's second home as B.T. Boomers, in central Ft. Myers, which was a Sports Bar that was indeed fitting to host the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida. A great working relationship was formed between the two organizations, giving the Bills Backers a home they could be very proud to call their own. After two years it was decided that a change was in order and the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida moved to R.J. Gators, again in central Ft. Myers, another local establishment that catered to sports fans. While the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida called R. J. Gators home, the Mayor of the City of Buffalo, The Honorable Anthony J. Maciello, sanctioned by Proclamation that R.J. Gators was part of the City of Buffalo on game days. The relationship with R. J. Gators lasted only one year and the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida were once again on the hunt for a new fan club home. A new local Sports Cafe was very interested in the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida and continually recruited the Club. In 1996, Shoeless Joe's Sports Cafe (affiliated with the Holiday Inn Select, now known as the Crown Plaza) officially welcomed the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida to their new home. This was indeed a bold move for the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida as the Club was growing and large places that could accommodate our fans were becoming increasingly harder to find. Through the relationship that had been established with Shoeless Joe's Sports Cafe and Holiday Inn Select, the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida have evolved to one of the largest and most active chapters within Bills Backers International. In 2000, Shout! magazine confirmed this fact by awarding the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida with their annual Best Fan Club of the Year Award.
The Bills Backers of Southwest Florida have made annual activities common place where other chapters in Bills Backers International could only watch in envy. The Club has prided itself in all of their activities, but truly stand proud when their charity efforts both in Southwest Florida and within the Buffalo area. The Club is also very proud of their accomplishments with their Annual Player's Weekend which has become an event recognized by the Buffalo Bills and the Buffalo Bills Alumni Association.
Through Super Bowl parties and the loss of key team members, the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida have stood as one big happy family that was relocated to a strange new area. The Club has built a name for itself that even Miami Dolphin and New England Patriot fans are impressed with, no matter how much they may actually deny it.
The Bills Backers of Southwest Florida suffered a deep loss in February of 1996 when the founding President, Tom Austin, resigned at a Board of Director's meeting. He cited both personal and health reasons for his decision, further stating that it was one of the hardest decisions he had to make in some time. The Board of Director's were then hit with a second blow, yet another loss from the Board of Directors as then Club Vice President, Skip Bentley, also tendered his resignation effective immediately citing personal reasons for his decision. The remaining members of the Board were left in total shock, not sure which way to head. The timing of the resignations hit the Board of Directors even harder as each member of the Board knew the their Annual Player's Weekend was quickly approaching, only six weeks away and the member's of the Board were now faced with the Club's first crisis. The remaining Board Members quickly regrouped and appointed Board Member Earl Wiggins to complete the remainder of Tom's term and Cy Brancato to complete the remainder of Skip's term. The vacant Board Positions would be filled by membership vote at their Annual Spring Picnic. The silent fear of the remaining Board Members was that with the loss of Tom Austin the Club may not survive. Most members felt that he was the sustaining force behind the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida. The Board of Directors knew that the next several months would be crucial to the survival of the Club. The Annual Player's Weekend came and went without a hitch, but the "new" Board of Directors sincerely felt how the membership looked at the loss of Tom Austin. Some Club members were lost and the Board of Directors knew that they had some very difficult and trying times to get through. In hind sight it should be noted that at this point in time, the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida needed to go through a major crisis such as this, as it was a time like this that gave way to the belief and knowledge that the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida were a unit of individuals that had created an entity that could with stand problems and still survive as that entity known as a Sports Fan Club. Further it made the internal workings of the organization stronger and more aware of the little details that keep the club strong and growing. It also gave the Club's membership confidence in the Board of Directors that through any situation the seated Club members running the club can and do have the drive, determination, and Club's best interest at heart to ensure the Club survives any situation.
Since that fateful night in February, President Earl Wiggins has made the Board of Directors a very strong, organized and well rounded unit. He was able to bring out the special talents of each member of the Board of Directors, creating a new organization for the club. Innovative ideas, raffle improvements, the addition of weekly Silent Auctions, and the advent of "Alumni Player Game Day" have vastly improved the efforts of the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors continued their relationship with Shoeless Joe's Sports Cafe and Holiday Inn Select, creating a situation that enhanced the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida. This strong relationship has made the Club's annual events stronger and more beneficial to the desired outcome, raising funds for Children's Charities. The Club had always held their relationship in high regards with Shoeless Joe's Sports Cafe and Holiday Inn Select and did at that time look forward to many more years with its extended new family. Earl Wiggins gave notice to the Board of Directors that he would not seek another term as Club President and completed his last year as Club President in April of 2000. At the Annual Player's Weekend Banquet, held in April of 2000, Earl stunned the audience in attendance by stating he would not seek nor accept the nomination as Club President. He had stated that it was time to turn the leadership of our Club to the "younger generation" of our Club and heartily nominated David Trippany for Club President and urged the Club to not only elect but offer their full support to him. The Board of Directors then honored out going President, Earl Wiggins, awarding him the "Distinguished President's Gavel" award for all of his efforts and achievements during his Presidency. During Earl Wiggins exit speech to Club members, he informed the membership of the distinguished award awarded to the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida. Shout! magazine has named the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida the "Number One Chapter within Bills Backers International. The efforts of Earl Wiggins - President, Cy Brancato - Vice President, Shirley Trippany - Secretary/Treausrer and Board Members Judy Agos, LuAnnBoyle, Jackie Call, Bill Johnson, Mary Pasquale, David Trippany, and Carol Waite had finally been recognized by an organization closely associated with the Buffalo Bills Football Organization. Every member of the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida heartily congratulated this seated Board of Directors for their outstanding efforts towards making this the "Best Chapter in Bills Backers International".
In April of 2000, David Trippany, accepted the nomination of Club President of the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida and was elect to the post of President during the Club's Annual Election held at the Annual Spring Picnic. While David Trippany took over as the Club's President when the Club was enjoying phenomenal success in all areas, he would soon be President during a time period that would serve to become some of the Club's darkest hours, testing not only the abilities of the Board of Directors but the very fabric of the Club itself. In 2001 the Club was informed by Shoeless Joe's Sports Cafe and Holiday Inn Select that we were no longer welcome within their establishment, citing that they could make more money without out Club's attendance on NFL Game Sundays. The Board of Directors quickly activated themselves into action and in no time found a new Fan Club Home. Groove Street Grill and Discotheque had heard the Club was looking for a new home and through Board Member Bob Call had schedule a meeting with the Board of Directors. The deal was sealed at the meeting that the new Fan Club Home would be Groove Street. Owner Joe Gallanis was thrilled to have the Club at his establishment. Tough times were indeed in the Club's future. Internal Club problems threatened the once prosperous Club, a football's team inability to have a successful ball club, deteriorating relations with our Fan Club Home owner, a major decline in membership and member attendance at games, and a severe Club debt passed on from the previous Club President that had nearly crippled the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida. Taking all this in stride, Club President David Trippany kept focused on the fundamental ideals that formulated the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida and lead the Board of Directors in a direction that always pointed toward success of the Club. Under the leadership of Club President David Trippany, the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida would not only survive but would again begin to flourish as a successful entity.
In the spring of 2008, Groove Street owner, Joe Gallanis, informed the Board of Directors that he no longer wanted to be host to the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida. He cited the lack of profits for his reasoning and his rising costs. Club President David Trippany, Club Vice President Fred Johnson and Board Member Rick McCarthy quickly moved into action and within one month had a deal sealed with Alli Gators Neighborhood Bar and Grill for the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida to meet exclusively in the restaurants main room. To date the relationship between the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida and Alli Gators, while it is quite new, continues to get better with each passing week. We look forward to a long stay at our new Fan Club Home, knowing our future here will not only be bright, but successful as well.
The current Board of Directors consist of the following: Club President - David Trippany, Club Vice President - Fred Johnson, Club Secretary/Treasurer - Shirley Trippany, Board Members - Pam Addy, Judy Agos, Rosanne Agos, Mary Kay Hammerl, Jerry King, Rick McCarthy, Mary Merkley, and Greg Silcox, Board Assistant Positions - Mary Anne Cipressy (Editor of "The Two Minute Warning" and "The 12th Man South") and Edith Robinson (General Board Assistant). Each member of the Board of Directors brings with them unique qualifications to ensure the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida remains a strong and viable entity not only within Southwest Florida but also with Bills Backers International. This current Board of Directors looks forward to the new challenges the future will bring, knowing that each Board Officer and Member has special leadership abilities that continue to enhance the diversity of the Bills Backers of Southwest Florida. The Club membership has not only come to expect this of their Board of Directors, but demands it.
The Bills Backers of Southwest Florida have remained strong over the last seventeen years of existence, from the Super Bowl years to the leanest of years, the Club has survived everything that was thrown its way. This year, our 17th year we are beginning to see membership's on the rise, a football team that is achieving success, the likes we haven't seen since 1992, and an internal strength of the Club that can only be attributed to good direction from a strong and unified Board of Directors that truly has the best interest of the Club's membership at heart.
We look forward to a great season, both at our new Fan Club Home and with our team, the Buffalo Bills. In typical Buffalo Bills fashion...............GOOOOOOOO BILLS!!!!!!!!!!!