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Buccaneers Huddle Up with United Way

Posted Oct 29, 2013

LB Lavonte David led a large contingent of Buccaneer players and representatives in a Hometown Huddle effort on Tuesday, as the group helped construct a new Learning Garden at Edison Elementary

On October 22, franchises throughout the NFL took part in an annual tradition of hosting events in their respective communities for Hometown Huddle, a dedicated day of service coordinated with United Way chapters across the country.  For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a shortened  week leading up to their Thursday night game against Carolina didn’t keep the team from playing its part; they simply waited a week, as a large contingent of players and cheerleaders gathered at Edison Elementary School in Tampa on Tuesday to continue a Buccaneer tradition of volunteerism and service.

“The United Way and the Bucs share a priority around education, because both organizations understand that without a solid foundation in education, kids cannot possibly go on to be successful,” said Afira Devries, chief development & innovations officer at United Way Suncoast. “Today, we have a demonstration of that partnership here at Edison Elementary.”

-- Buccaneer players helped build a new Learning Center at Edison Elementary
Linebacker Lavonte David, defensive tackle Akeem Spence, defensive end Steven Means, wide receivers Chris Owusu and Russell Shepard, tight end Tim Wright, Cheerleaders Tricia and Saundra, team mascot Captain Fear and Buccaneer staff members joined United Way Suncoast volunteers at the school to help construct a new Learning Garden on campus.

“It makes me feel good,” said David. “We’ve got support from everyone, other teammates are out here helping, and putting smiles on kids’ faces is always an honor. Us being out here lights them up, so we appreciate it. We love to do things like this. That’s what giving back is all about.”

The new Learning Garden, complete with a large outdoor chalkboard, new seating and updated landscaping, is a welcomed addition for teachers and administrators, who are constantly looking for new ways to engage and motivate students.

“I really think it’s going to build morale with my staff and my teachers,” said Beverly Smith, the school principal. “Sometimes it gets stressful with trying to make sure your students succeed, so having the players come out and do something that builds life skills gives my teachers a mental break so they can see the good that is going to come out of this and then go back into their everyday lives of making sure our children succeed.”

As part of the Buccaneers’ Hometown Huddle program this year, Edison, along with the 18 other BUCS CARE Schools, were asked to submit essay proposals for projects they could administer through a $1,000 grant.

Tuesday’s celebration and service event at Edison represented one of five school improvement projects that will take place this fall at BUCS CARE Schools as part of the 2013 Hometown Huddle.

The other schools and projects that received grants from the Buccaneers included Lanier Elementary (Book Nook); Mort Elementary (School-to-Home Connection Kits); LaVoy Exceptional Center (Life Skills Lab); and Lockhart Elementary (Physical Education Programming/Equipment).

Along with receiving a motivational message from Shepard, students had the opportunity for autographs and pictures before helping the Buccaneers construct the newest classroom at Edison.

“For the kids, it’s amazing; it shows them that hard work pays off,” added Smith. “I really liked what Russell said to the kids – that the most important thing is showing respect and also showing hard work. Hearing it from someone other than their teachers and then seeing the players work hard, it can only enhance what they do every day.”