Jameis Winston has received many haircuts in his life, but few more meaningful than the one he received from young Josh, a pediatric cancer survivor at One Buccaneer Place on Wednesday night.
He, along with more than two dozen players and staff members, had their heads and beards shaved by pediatric cancer patients and survivors in an effort to raise money and awareness to help eliminate childhood cancer through the Buccaneers' Cut for a Cure, which benefits the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation.
Pictures from the Buccaneers' 2016 Cut for a Cure event.
It's the second year that Winston has been part of the cause and shaved his head, and the fourth year the Bucs have been avid supporters and hosted the event.
Buccaneers Chief Operating Officer Brian Ford, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, quarterback Jameis Winston, tackle Donovan Smith, guard Ali Marpet, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, running back Charles Sims, safety Keith Tandy, tight end Danny Vitale, tight end Alan Cross, defensive tackle Travis Britz, linebacker Luke Rhodes and several members of the Bucs' staff also shaved their heads in solidarity with the young patients.
"The Cut for the Cure doesn't just last for one day – this is a year-round effort to raise awareness," said Ford. "We're in our fourth year of supporting this cause, and the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation has become part of our family. Speaking from personal experience, we draw a tremendous amount of inspiration and hope from meeting and interacting with these children and their families."
Besides getting an expertly-styled new look - the clippers were actually wielded by some very brave pediatric cancer patients - the participating players had a variety of motivations to participate in Wednesday's event. Some have had cancer touch their families.
"It wasn't a tough decision; it kind of hits home, the whole cancer thing," said Rhodes, whose father has been a cancer survivor for 10 years. "It's for a good cause. If I was going to get a haircut, what better way to do it?"
Others had had previous interactions with pediatric patients and knew how important it was to lend their help.
"This event is so much fun," said Marpet, who first had his head shaved by his young stylist and then got a shave - and a small nick on his chin - from his linemate, Smith. "I did it last year. It's awesome that Gerald and some of the others can raise so much money for a good cause. Last year, the rookies went over to a local hospital to see the struggle that the kids go through, how strong they are and how much they really fight. That really motivated me to be involved in an event like this."
Through donations from the Buccaneers organization, as well as fundraising efforts by players, staff, and fans, $40,000 was raised this year for the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation. Buccaneer Director of Sales Deno Anagnost, a cancer survivor, personally raised $17,000, which earned him the honor of Smith taking part in his head-shaving, as well. Ford originally presented the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation with a check for $32,500 but McCoy stepped onto the stage and used a pen to cross out that number and replace it with $40,000, making up the difference with a personal donation.
McCoy, the Buccaneers' spokesperson for the Cut for a Cure event, also took a moment to address the visiting children and their families. He revealed that his own daughter is currently in the hospital, and though it is not for cancer treatments it is still a struggle to see her in discomfort.
"It is such an honor to be the spokesman for Cut for a Cure," McCoy told the families. "I don't think you guys really realize what this means to the players, and the strength that we gain from seeing what these children go through. [His daughter's hospitalization] has made me, as a dad, gain so much more respect for you parents, and for the strength that these kids possess. This is nothing compared to what they deal with. This is really an honor for us and we really, truly love you guys. Thank you for letting the Bucs be a part of this."
In the Buccaneers' four years of involvement with the Cut for a Cure, the team has raised more than $110,000. The team surpasses their fundraising goal for this year's event, becoming the No. 1 fundraising team in Tampa Bay in the process.
"The Buccaneers are champions in their own right, on the field and off the field," said National Pediatric Cancer Foundation CEO David Frazer. "Seeing players and staff here today recognize a valid cause, contribute to our organization and put joy into these kids' faces, those are true winners."