With the official start of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' season quickly approaching, many Bay area fans are anticipating another significant date that is right around the corner: the first day of school.
The Buccaneers and the Glazer Family Foundation are getting ready for the start of a new school year, as well. On Monday, the Foundation continued a tradition of supporting students at this time of year by distributing backpacks to children in need at the team's training camp at One Buccaneer Place. It's the popular "Buc-Packs for Back-to-School" program, and this year more than 70 local nonprofit organizations and community groups received a total of 5,000 backpacks. That's an increase of 1,500 backpacks over the Foundation's 2011 distribution.
"Our Buc-Packs for Back-to-School is such an important event in the community since there is a large need for school supplies from nonprofit organizations in our eight-county Central Florida area," said Glazer Family Foundation Manager Christy Schnell. "We saw this last year, and that is why we increased the amount of backpacks we gave out this year to 5,000. Each backpack is stuffed with notebooks, pencil cases, pens and other supplies to get children prepared for the start of the school year."
The Buc-Pack program, which is now in its 12th year, has made a tradition of bringing students to the team's training camp for the distribution of the items. This offers the Buccaneers a chance to showcase One Buccaneer Place to its special guests, who get the opportunity to watch Tampa Bay players in action.
"The Bucs are great; this is great for the kids and the community," said Dexter Bryent, founder and president of the Young Lions Youth Organization, a local nonprofit designed to help disadvantaged children and prevent juvenile delinquency. "The Buccaneers do a great job helping these kids [experience] things that they probably wouldn't be able to do or afford."
While training camp provides an exciting setting for the annual donation, the purpose of the program remains unwavering: provide much-needed backpacks and school supplies to children who otherwise could not afford them.
"The Glazer Family Foundation strives to better the lives of children and families with impactful programs, and reaching children who do not have these resources at their disposal is the number-one goal," said Schnell. "We are excited that our Buc-packs program is really reaching those children in need."
The importance of these donations is felt within the community.
"We are here to pick up backpacks for some of our families who may not be able to buy backpacks for their families because of the current situations they are going through," said Roncia St. Clair, director of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic program, We Help Services. "Anytime you can reach out to the community and meet a need, it's a great partnership."
Monday's event at training camp kept volunteers busy, as organizations and community groups showed up to One Buccaneer Place in droves to receive their backpacks. Including this year's event, the Foundation initiative has donated over 25,000 supply-laden backpacks to local children.
"I think it's terrific," said Jennifer Tuohy, grants manager for Big Brothers/Big Sisters. "The kids love it because they are cool backpacks. It gives them a way to start the school year right and feel like they fit in. The Glazer Family Foundation has been very generous to the community for years and this is just another example of it."
After all of the participants had received their Buc-Packs and watched the Buccaneers practice on Monday, they took the field themselves to run through a variety of Gatorade Junior Training Camp drills. They were also treated to a visit from several players, including kicker Connor Barth, linebacker LeGarrette Blount, wide receiver Greg Ellingson and long-snapper Andrew Economos. The players demonstrated the drills and ran through them alongside the kids.
"Every year we come out for this event and go to camp," said Donald Bush, Recreation Leader Two at the NFL YET Center. "It's a great event. It's great for them to give back to the community."
On Monday, the following groups received backpacks from the Glazer Family Foundation:
- Abe Brown Ministries, Inc
- AIDS Service Association of Pinellas (ASAP)
- Amen Outreach Ministry
- Azalea Middle School PTA
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, Inc.
- Bob Sierra Family YMCA
- Boys & Girls Clubs of Citrus County
- Brookwood Florida-Central, Inc.
- CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse, Inc.)
- Cornerstone Kids, Inc.
- Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa, Inc.
- Counseling, Mediation, and Educational Center
- Devereux Florida
- Dover School Mission Team from St. Andrew's UMC
- Dream Center of Tampa
- East Ybor Historic and Civic Association
- Educational Foundation of Lake County
- Emergency Care Help Organization
- First United Methodist Church
- First Victory of Faith Church of Tampa Bay, Inc. - The Legacy Project
- Florida Adults and Children Enrichment Services, Inc.
- Free Life Chapel
- Hillsborough County BOCC Head Start
- Hillsborough County NAACP
- Hillsborough County Schools - Bailey Elementary
- Hillsborough Education Foundation
- Homeless Emergency Project, Inc. (HEP)
- Iglesia de Dios el Shaddai in Tampa, Inc.
- Improvement League of Plant City
- Intervention Services, Inc.
- Jackson Heights NFL Youth Education Town
- Junior Achievement of West Central Florida
- Justice and Peace Office
- Kids Charity of Tampa Bay, Inc.
- Kids House of Seminole
- Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church
- Mary Bradley Weeks
- Mendenhall PTA
- Metropolitan Ministries
- Moffitt Cancer Center- Moffitt Healthy KIDZ Program
- Mount Zion Human Services, Inc.
- Mulberry Community Service Center
- New Bethel Temple Of Deliverance
- Operation Heart F.E.L.T.
- Parkway Middle School
- Personal Enrichment Through Mental Health Services
- Police Athletic League (PAL)
- Port of Direction Services, Inc.
- Project LINK, Inc.
- Seminole County Victims' Rights Coalition, Inc. dba SafeHouse
- Sportskids-Underwood Foundation Inc.
- St. Francis Children's Daycare, Inc.
- St. Petersburg Free Clinic
- Suncoast Community Health Centers, Inc.
- Tampa Jewish Family Services
- Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA
- Tellevast Community Center
- The Academies, Inc.
- The Center for Manifestation Worldwide
- The Crossing Church
- The Salvaton Army -Tampa
- The Skills Center
- UMOJA Inc.
- Victory Tabernacle United Pentecostal Church
- YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg
- YMCA of the Suncoast
- Young Lions Youth Organization, Inc.
For more information on the "Buc-Packs" for Back-to-School program, visit www.GlazerFamilyFoundation.org.