â€œOne of my foster mothers always said God gave me such a big heart to make up for my lack of common sense,â€ jokes Bill Mayweather. â€œIf thatâ€™s true, I must have a heart the size of a city block.â€
Mayweather, 37, works in the housekeeping department at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Shaffer Blvd. He resides alone, satisfied to live modestly in order to set money aside for a charitable cause every Christmas season. The City Desk recently interviewed Mayweather in his studio apartment about his penchant for charity.
â€œI used to write checks to places like The Salvation Army or March of Dimes,â€ says Mayweather. â€œI knew those folks would use the money for good causes, but a few years back, I made up my mind to do something more personal.â€
So, in the winter of 2006, Mayweather spent all night long in his kitchenette, preparing treats for some of the cityâ€™s neediest: the stray dogs at the 87th St. animal shelter.
Leslie Rhea, a volunteer at the shelter, recalled the afternoon Mayweather made his visit. â€œThis great big guy comes in from the snow with a huge grin on his face. Heâ€™s carrying about a dozen wrapped boxes tied with gold and green ribbons, saying they were presents for the dogs. I open one of the boxes, and find all these handmade, bone-shaped chocolate bars. He looked so proud I didnâ€™t have the heart to tell him the caffeine and theobromine in chocolate is toxic to dogs. So I made (staff veterinarian) Dr. Briere tell him. Nice man, though. He came back the next day with a couple of waterproof electric blankets, and told us he made a donation in the shelterâ€™s name to the ASPCA.â€
â€œI wound up giving all the treats to the homeless shelter a few blocks away,â€ says Mayweather. â€œI bet there were a lot of confused hobos wondering why they got a chocolate dog bone on their tray at the soup kitchen.â€
“I really made an idiot of myself,â€ admits Mayweather sheepishly. â€œSo the next Christmas, I decided I was going to do something nice for the kids at the St. Katherineâ€™s Childrenâ€™s Hospital. How could anyone screw that up?
â€œChristmas Eve, I rent the best Santa Claus suit I could find, pack up a bag with 3 Nintendo Wiis, and go over to St. Kateâ€™s. When I get there, I ask an orderly to show me where I could find the really sick kids. He shows me to a door on the fourth floor. I burst through the door, and start to shout out a Santa laugh. I only got through two â€˜Hoâ€™sâ€™ before I realized I made another mistake.â€
Dr. Anita Hutchkiss, a resident on duty at St. Katherineâ€™s that night, explains. â€œThe Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, or PICU, is home to some of the most critically ill children in the city. Kids with meningitis, septicemia, third-degree burns, severe trauma â€“ almost 80% of them are comatose. Not to put too fine a point on it, but none of the patients in the PICU possesses the physical capacity required to play a Wii.â€
â€œI was horrified,â€ says a noticeably pale Mayweather, recalling the incident. â€œLuckily, a nurse suggested I take my gifts down to Oncology. Those kids really made my night. They were so sweet and grateful.â€
â€œBill really did have his heart in the right place,â€ says Dr. Hutchkiss. â€œA few days later, he came back with a new cappuccino maker for the PICU waiting room, and made a $500 contribution toward a new dialysis machine.â€
Determined not to make a fool of himself again, Mayweather has been hard at work since June on his latest project.
â€œWhen I visited the oncology unit at St. Kateâ€™s, I noticed that a lot of the kids had lost their hair from their treatments. So I wanted to do something to help give them new hair, so they wouldnâ€™t be teased at school, or made to feel different, you know?â€
Mayweatherâ€™s quest brought him to dozens of barbershops and styling salons throughout the city, where he made arrangements with the proprietors to save long bundles of hair from their customers. You may even have heard his ads on local radio station 790 AM asking volunteers to â€œMake the kindest cut to benefit St. Katherineâ€™s Childrenâ€™s Hospital this Christmas.â€
â€œHere they are,â€ says Mayweather proudly, as he displays nearly 200 Ziploc bags full of braids and ponytails in all colors. â€œIâ€™m told most of them come from kids wanting to help other children.â€
When asked who would be making the wigs, Mayweatherâ€™s bright smile disappears. â€œGee…Iâ€¦Iâ€™m not sure,â€ he stammered. â€œI guess I just assumedâ€¦ Oh, I was just going to take the hair right to the hospital in the bags..â€
When asked about his plans for next Christmas, Mayweather is visibly shaken. â€œI guess Iâ€™ll probably just go back to making cash donations to St. Judeâ€™s or Toys for Tots. Iâ€™ll leave the planning and execution to the professionals from now on, since I canâ€™t get anything right.â€
Mayweather eventually found an organization that was happy to use his collection to make high quality hairpieces for sick children. The non-profit charity â€œLocks of Loveâ€ has agreed to accept his donations, so rest assured that Mayweatherâ€™s efforts will not be in vain this holiday season.
– Ray Ingraham