For more than a decade, the Glazer Family Foundation's "Cheering You On!" program has helped lift the spirits of young patients by providing a Tampa Bay Buccaneers teddy bear to youth admitted to hospitals throughout Central Florida. On Tuesday, the children of Florida Hospital Tampa had their new bears personally delivered by some very special guests.
Tampa Bay Buccaneer players Chris Owusu and Keith Tandy, as well as Buccaneers Cheerleaders Keri and Paige, visited the hospital's pediatric unit on Tuesday, spreading smiles from room to room.
Claire Snell, a high school freshman who enjoys dancing and cheerleading, was one of the patients the Buccaneer group called on. Snell was recently admitted to the hospital after having a seizure; she had fallen unconscious, and her mother, Michelle, immediately rushed her to the emergency room.
"She basically had a seizure, fell back and hit her head," Michelle said. "I picked her up – I'm not sure how because she is taller than me – and brought her to [Florida Hospital Tampa]."
That was obviously a frightening experience for both mother and daughter, but Snell's day was brightened on Tuesday, thanks to the Buccaneer visitors. The players and cheerleaders crisscrossed the wing, handing out "Buckles" and "Pom Pom," the soft teddy bears that are the signature gift of the Cheering You On! program.
For the teenage patient, receiving "Pom Pom" and meeting people she has admired from afar was an uplifting moment. "It was really special, because I'm a cheerleader and I really look up to them," Snell said.
The positive impact the Buccaneer players and cheerleaders made on both the children and the staff was evident to Phoebe Ochman, public relations director for the hospital.
"You can see the smiles on their faces," Ochman said. "The smile is from ear to ear, almost like a Cheshire cat grin. Also, for the staff, it has boosted morale instantaneously."