LB Derrick Brooks brightened up the holiday season for dozens of Boys & Girls Club members on Monday
The Brandon, Wilbert Davis and Ybor City Boys & Girls Clubs have held a special place in the heart of Derrick Brooks since his arrival in Tampa in 1995. The philanthropic linebacker's adventures with his "Brooks' Bunch" have been well chronicled in these pages and the countless hours he has donated to the three clubs are the stuff of legend.
On Monday night, Brooks renewed his support of these three clubs all over again by hosting his seventh annual Christmas party for their members. This year's celebration was held at Game Works in Ybor City.
Each year at his party Brooks distributes Nike tennis shoes and gifts to the most needy members of the clubs. As always, the children were given their gifts on Monday evening and, as always, Brooks made them promise not to open the presents until Christmas morning. For a more immediate impact, Brooks also provided pizza, cookies and drinks for all of the children as they waited for their names to be called.
Brooks called each child in attendance by name and presented him or her with a wrapped box containing a Christmas gift. Twenty members from each club received the special holiday presents from Brooks, the gifts ranging from shoes to clothes to toys, with some kids receiving a mix of everything. While Brooks donated most of the gifts, 989 Sports and the National Football League each kicked in with a contribution of PlayStations, games and backpacks.
"I just thank God that I can put a smile on these kids faces by giving them a toy and sharing with them a little of the meaning of Christmas," said Brooks.
In addition to helping the younger kids at the club, Brooks also provided laptop computers, with the help of Buddy's Home Furnishings and Alliance Computing Technologies, to the seven Brooks' Bunchers that are currently attending college.
"Those kids are, obviously, very special," said Brooks. "They've been with me for quite a while and we're very thankful that we were able to provide computers for those kids that we've sent off to college."
After the presentation of the gifts, Brooks gave each child a game card and allowed them to try out the Game Works games for the final two hours of the party.
"I'm having a great time," said Brooks during the event. "Just being here with the kids and seeing them having a good time is all that I need."
McCardell's Shopping Spree
At the same time that Brooks' Boys & Girls Club event was lasting into the evening, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Keenan McCardell was getting his rest for an early morning visit with 20 special children from the Hillsborough Department of Health and Social Services.
At 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning, shortly before the receiver would have to report to work for meetings, McCardell greeted his visitors at Toys 'R Us and informed each child that they had $500 to purchase anything in the store that they pleased. With a roar of excitement, the kids were off, grabbing carts and heading into the Toys 'R Us aisles to fill them up.
"It's a time for giving," said McCardell, "and what better way to give back than to give to some kids that may not have a great Christmas."
The children filled their carts with Barbies, remote control cars, video game systems and video games, racetracks, stuffed animals, art supplies, Legos, clothes, model cars, movies and action figures. Each child then lined up at the cash register and had the contents of their shopping carts totaled.
"This is the best day ever, man," muttered one of the recipients to a friend. "I got a PlayStation and a Gameboy Advance."
Most carts came in just shy of $500, while some pushed just over the limit, but the amiable McCardell didn't seem to mind.
"The smiles are what it is all about," said McCardell. "To be able to provide a special Christmas for these kids is what Christmas is all about for me."
Walker Visits Oak Park
Joining Brooks and McCardell in their giving ways this week was Buccaneers right tackle Kenyatta Walker. Walker visited Oak Park Elementary School to provide gifts for 40 students who had achieved success in the classroom.
Walker did Santa one up, sticking around after he dropped off his presents at Oak Park. The 6-5 tackle had lunch with the students and several of their teachers, talking about school, football and the importance of getting an education. It was only after meeting all of the kids that Walker distributed the gifts and signed autographs for the eight to twelve year-old students.
"It's great to give back and see the kids happy and smiling," said Walker. "It's great to be able to show some of the less fortunate kids that someone does care about them."