With the holiday season well underway, Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie Mark Barron helped deliver some much-needed gifts to local boys and girls on Tuesday, thanks to the support of the Bay area community.
Barron was joined by teammates Arrelious Benn, Gerald McCoy, Myron Lewis and D.J. Ware, as well as Buccaneers Cheerleaders and team mascot Captain Fear, on a visit to the Family Enrichment Center of the Hillsborough County Sherriff's Office. The Buccaneers group presented sporting goods that were collected at the Glazer Family Foundation Sports Equipment Collection Drive on November 25 and will now be distributed to area children in need. Nearly 100 kids were on hand, as well, to receive their gifts directly from the Buccaneer players.
The November 25 gameday drive supported Replay Tampa Bay, a holiday sporting goods collection effort in conjunction with the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. The drive, which goes until December 28, encourages the community to donate any new or slightly-used sporting goods to benefit Metropolitan Ministries, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office charities and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Police Athletic League.
"We've tripled the number of sporting goods that we did from this past year, and you can just see the reward on these kids' faces," said Rob Higgins, Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. "That's a true testament to the Bucs and the Glazer Family Foundation."
Col. Donna Lusczynski of the Hillsborough County Sherriff's Office was thankful for the donation efforts, speaking on the significant role that new, safe athletic equipment can play in a child's life.
"For them to give these gifts to the kids so that they can go outside and get exercise and stay healthy, that's tremendous," Lusczynski said. "This is important because we see obesity in young kids and that's really sad and scary."
In 2011, the inaugural drive resulted in more than 300 items being collected. For Barron, who served as the spokesman for this year's collection efforts, the expressions on the kids' faces made his participation all the more worthwhile.
"It looked like they were out there having fun," Barron said. "I just feel like the whole experience will be something for them to remember, and I was glad I was able to be a part of it."