RB Aaron Stecker (left) helps his team run through one of the events during the Kids Wish Network 'Team Wish Challenge'
On Saturday, a breezy and beautiful March day in Tampa, Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Todd Yoder and running back Aaron Stecker, along with Stecker's wife, Kara, participated in the second annual Kids Wish Network "Team Wish Challenge."
The Challenge is an event pioneered by Kids Wish Network executive director Shelley Breiner.
"The Team Wish Challenge is for corporations who desire a team building experience for their employees," said Breiner. "Each team has a celebrity captain and the captains take them through the challenge course."
The Challenge does more than foster corporate teamwork, however. By supporting the Network's "Guardian Angel Fund," the event helps children with life-threatening conditions experience the special moments of which they have dreamed.
To participate in the event, corporations purchased a team spot from the Kids Wish Network, with the fees going into the Guardian Angel Fund. After purchasing the teams the organizations select team members who then participate in the challenge. These team fees will prove to be particularly useful because, as always with the Kids Wish Network, donations in excess of $500 go directly into the fund without any overhead or administrative costs. Every cent of these donations goes toward making a child's dream come true.
Along with Stecker and Yoder, a quarter of Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders also attended the kick-off of the event. Cheerleaders Amy Fleck, Cristina Gardner, Allyson Hall, and Mimi Kilpatrick greeted guests and signed autographs for all of the participants and volunteers. Joining the Buccaneer players as celebrity team captains were Miss Florida Teen USA Joanna Candelaria, radio personality Jack Harris, 1988 US Olympian Bryant Johnson and sports anchor Rock Riley.
Following the opening ceremonies, each team proceeded to one of ten activities, including the 'crazy corporate canoe race' and groups of 'high' and 'low' events, in reference to altitude. The canoe race involved rowing around a buoy and back three times in the shortest amount of time.
Unfortunately for Yoder, the group he captained was not particularly adept in this event, tipping the canoe and all of its occupants into the water prior to the third leg of the race. Yoder took it well.
"It was pretty funny to see those guys just keel over and fall in the water," said the Buc tight end. "I know I'm the captain of this team, but that was funny."
The high events included the Cat Walk, Multi-Vine, Zip Line and Climbing Wall. During the Cat Walk, Multi-Vine and Zip Line activities teams, were awarded points for dropping sand-filled socks into marked areas while either walking across a board, balancing on a tight rope using overhead vines for balance or sliding down a zip line. The wall climb was a timed event and points were given to the team with the best overall time.
The low events consisted of the Wish Pipeline, Wish Delivery, Wish Web, Wish Juggle and Wish Trolley. While performing the low events the teams must use creative thinking to solve problems.
After finishing the morning activities and having some lunch, the players and their teams were back in action, with two sets of groups switching between the low to high events. As the temperature rose during the afternoon, so did the competition. The competitors never lost sight of the true goal, however.
"It's a great experience to be out here and know that we're not only enjoying the fun and competition, but also helping Kids Wish Network," said Kimberly Filor, captain of the Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club Team.
After the activities were finished, the teams gathered together to eat barbecue and await the announcement of the winners.
"I think it's a great event," said Stecker. "It's not your typical fund raiser. It gives people the chance to have a day of fun and activities, while also supporting a worthy cause."
Yoder agreed with Stecker's sentiments.
"I've been a part of both of the Kids Wish Networks Challenge events and both times it has just been a great experience not only for myself, but for all of the people participating," he said.
After the points were tallied, the Time Warner Telecom Team and Aztek Selective HR Team were tabbed as dual winners, with Stecker's Kids Wish Dream Team tying for third. The top three teams all received special Kids Wish Network Gold Stars, while all participants received a Kids Wish Network Gold Medal.
Win, place or show, no one could have summed up the day better than a grateful Aaron Stecker.
"While my team may have finished in third place," he said, "everybody out here is a winner just for being a part of this event and contributing to the Kids Wish Network."