While the Buccaneers' season is very much still alive as they look toward their first playoff berth since 2007, it's also the holiday season. With that, comes the season of giving and the opportunity for Bucs players to give back to the Tampa Bay community. Though this year looks a little different due to the ongoing pandemic, your favorite Buccaneers have still been spreading Christmas cheer as if they were Santa's not-so-little helpers over the last couple weeks.
This year is especially significant because every donation, whether individual or as a position group, was doubled thanks to a match from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation Social Justice Fund, established in 2018 by the Glazer family, in order to help further the impact made by player donations.
"With the Social Justice Initiative that we have here, which is amazing, the Bucs Foundation matches us dollar for dollar," said defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh. He and the rest of the Buccaneer defensive line held their Ninth Annual D-Line Delivers Christmas event on December 21. The $30,000 donation from the line was matched by the Fund for a total of $60,000 going toward giving East Tampa children a magical Christmas. Gifts under personalized trees included Microsoft Surfaces, WiFi hotspots with service for a year, Fitbits, Target gift cards and Buccaneer baskets.
The Buccaneers also launched the Youth Leadership Program this season in which players, staff and local students from Young Middle Magnet school participate in a mentorship program. Players Ryan Griffin and Ryan Smith took it upon themselves to provide gifts for each of the 25 students. Griffin gave each child a board game while Smith got each kid a pair of headphones. Raymond James provided Fitbits on top of the rest of the gifts from the Buccaneers.
View photos of the Mike Evans Catch for Christmas Annual Event which gave back to families in the Tampa area by gifting $2,000 worth of gift cards between Publix and Target courtesy of Mike and Ashli Evans.
- Individual players got in on the spirit of giving this year, too. Here are a few of the highlights:Lavonte David and his Lavonte's Legends Foundation partnered with The Spring of Tampa Bay, Miracles Outreach Community and G3 Life Applications to help support nearly 150 women and youth in the Tampa area. All families received Christmas presents and essentials thanks to the defensive captain on December 22.
- Jason Pierre-Paul went back to his roots, gifting children at the Boys and Girls Club of his hometown in Deerfield Beach, Florida with bicycles and autographed jerseys. "I was one of those kids," said Pierre-Paul. "I'm just paying it forward and giving back. Hopefully, those kids can recognize that one day and they'll do the same… they'll say, 'I remember this person gave me a great Christmas, so why not do that for somebody else?' That's what I'm doing."
- Devin White supported 25 foster families from A Door of Hope who visited Overflow Church in Valrico with a Christmas party, food, and stacks of gifts in partnership with the Buccaneers Foundation. The families were surprised by Captain Fear, the Buccaneers Cheerleaders and a message from the other defensive captain.
- Buccaneers Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee Mike Evans and his wife, Ashli, surprised six local families battling tough times this holiday season for their foundation's annual "Catch For Christmas" initiative. Unable to host a series of in-person charity events like previous years, the couple collaborated again with the Bucs Street Team, Cheerleaders and Captain Fear to deliver Buccaneers gear, gifts and thousands of dollars in Publix gift cards along with a holiday message from Mike and Ashli to offer some support this season.
- Running back LeSean McCoy hosted a Zoom call with two local families battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and facing particularly challenging circumstances this year – McCoy surprised the families with large bundles of Buccaneers gifts and the news that they'll be enjoying shopping sprees courtesy of McCoy.
- Linebacker Kevin Minter and wide receiver Justin Watson, in collaboration with the Beyond The Basics Foundation, hosted a Zoom call to surprise 24 bay-area families representing every Boys & Girls Club in Tampa Bay with $800 Amazon shopping sprees.
- The Buccaneers rookie class – including tackle Tristan Wirfs, Antoine Winfield Jr., Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Tyler Johnson – carried on a Buccaneers rookie holiday tradition of visiting patients at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg by greeting children over video to raise their spirits while hospital staff delivered Buccaneers gifts courtesy of the players. The tradition has been going on since the team's inception in 1976.