Started back in 2012, the D-Line Delivers Christmas event has become a holiday tradition for one of the biggest units on the team, with hearts to match. The event is meant to bring holiday joy to deserving children and families around the Bay area, ensuring they have a memorable Christmas each season.
This year, the event itself had to be altered and the players unfortunately had to miss out on being there in person due to COVID-19 restrictions. But that didn't mean the event didn't happen or was any less special.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers surprised 65 children from the East Tampa community with a holiday party and gifts for the ninth annual "D-Line Delivers Christmas" event.
Like Santa Claus himself, the D-Line enlisted some helpers of their own in the form of Captain Fear and the Buccaneers Cheerleaders, along with other Buccaneer staffers, who were on hand at the Jackson Heights NFL Y.E.T. Center on Monday to surprise 65 children from the East Tampa community.
Children were surprised with gifts under their own individual pre-lit Christmas trees (that they got to take home thanks to Lowe's) set up inside the gymnasium. Those gifts included Microsoft Surfaces, Wi-Fi hotspots with services paid for a year, Fitbits, Target gift cards and of course, a Buccaneers gift basket filled with autographed items and even a Buccaneers stuffed toy.
"Giving them all these awesome gifts, I think it will help them better for longer," said defensive lineman Will Gholston, who has participated in the last eight D-Line Delivers Christmas events. "These are not just Christmas gifts, they're something they can use as long as this pandemic and as long as this virtual stuff is going on."
The theme of this year's gifts was helping to bridge the "digital divide" and many children talked about how much the tablets and internet connections would help them with their schoolwork, in between squeals of excitement and delight at all the presents under the tree. And not only was Captain Fear in attendance, taking in all the treasures, but the Grinch himself made an appearance. It's rumored that his heart grew three sizes on Monday.
It was all made possible thanks to more than $60,000 in donations from the team. Defensive linemen Will Gholston, Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea, Steve McLendon, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Patrick O'Connor, Khalil Davis, Jeremiah Ledbetter, Benning Potoa'e, Kobe Smith, and coaches Kacy Rodgers and Lori Locust rallied together to donate a total of $30,000 that was then matched by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation Social Justice Fund. The Fund, established in 2018 by the Glazer family, matches player donations to the Tampa Bay community that help break down barriers to racial and social equality. They have matched nearly $150,000 in donations in 2020 alone.
"It's something that you can really feel good about, knowing that you're putting a smile on a kid's face or you're helping a family that doesn't have something," said Gholston. "It's a beautiful thing and it's a privilege and an honor to be able to do it. If somebody is listening to this or sees this and they've never given time or given something to someone who is less fortunate, it is the best feeling in the world."