On Tuesday, UnitedHealthcare staff joined a large group of Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookies in their annual tradition of bringing smiles and holiday cheer to members of the St. Petersburg community.
Players including Lavonte David, Leonard Johnson and Doug Martin, as well as Buccaneers cheerleaders and UnitedHealthcare staff, kicked off the day at All Children's Hospital to greet some of the area's youngest Buccaneer fans recovering from injury and illness.
The players and cheerleaders split into groups to visit patients throughout the hospital and distribute Buccaneers teddy bears to each patient in conjunction with the Glazer Family Foundation's "Cheering You On!" program. The program has distributed nearly 450,000 Buccaneers teddy bears to pediatric patients throughout Central Florida. UnitedHealthcare, a sponsor of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, also donated a new backpack to each patient.
Bringing some positive energy to the hospitalized children was an experience in which Martin took great satisfaction. "Seeing the kids and the parents smile as we entered the room, that was my favorite part," Martin said. "These kids are fighting for their lives and showing us how strong they are; it was a humbling experience."
Following the morning hospital visit, the group traveled to the Westminster Palms retirement home where they sang Christmas carols and shared a few laughs with the residents. The players gave their best renditions of such timeless carols as "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," "Frosty the Snowman" and "The 12 Days of Christmas," to the piano accompaniment of Ken Snyder, a local resident.
While the players enjoyed performing in front of a captive audience, even more rewarding was the residents' willingness to join in on the caroling. "I haven't sung some of those songs in years," said rookie offensive lineman Desmond Wynn. "Seeing the people singing along with us, it was definitely a fun experience."