LB Barrett Ruud and the other Buc volunteers worked quickly to get food boxes ready for those in need
It's almost Thanksgiving, and around One Buccaneer Place that means one thing: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are hard at work helping less fortunate members of the community have a happy holiday season. Whether providing food for those in need or helping out at the Metropolitan Ministries Holiday Tent, a group of Buccaneers are taking the time to give thanks and give back this year.
As he has many times before, Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks started the holiday celebration on the Monday night before Thanksgiving. Brooks spent the evening at the Wilbert Davis and Ybor City Boys & Girls Clubs where he handed out turkey dinners, complete with all the traditional trimmings, to families at each club. With the help of Publix supermarkets, Brooks distributed food to over 100 families, helping them to celebrate the spirit of Thanksgiving.
"I thank God for the opportunity to give back during the holidays," said Brooks. "This is a holiday tradition I have upheld for awhile, so I feel like it's very important to be able to give Thanksgiving dinners out to these families."
Tuesday morning found several Buccaneers at Falkenburg Academy, a juvenile detention center for teenage boys. Again, Publix pitched in to help LB Ryan Nece and S Jermaine Phillips provide several turkeys and other Thanksgiving fare so that the more than 100 cadets at the academy could enjoy a holiday meal together.
This marks the third year that Nece and Phillips have visited the academy at Thanksgiving, and this year they brought friends. Accompanying Nece and Phillips on this visit were TE Nate Lawrie and DE Dewayne White. Each of the four Buccaneers took turns addressing the cadets with a special message they wanted the boys to hear.
Nece spoke first and encouraged the cadets to think about hope. Lawrie challenged the boys not to take the easy road through life and to put forth the effort to work hard towards positive goals. White asked the cadets an interesting question.
"Everybody knows right from wrong," White said. "So why don't we always choose what's right?"
He encouraged the cadets to choose the right path, even when it may be difficult to do so. Finally, Phillips had a personal message for each of the young boys.
"The main reason I come out here is to let you know we haven't forgotten about you and there's still somebody out there who loves you and cares about what happens to you," Phillips said.
The Buccaneers told the cadets how hard work and dedication got each of them into the National Football League. The cadets were asked to remember these values once they leave the academy and get a second chance at life.
"Everybody here has fallen down," Phillips said to the cadets. "The main thing is that you have to get back up."
On Tuesday afternoon, the Metropolitan Ministries Holiday Tent was bustling with activity, and several Buccaneers were on hand to volunteer.
Members of the Buccaneers Rookie Club, including G Dan Buenning, S Claudius Osei, CB James Patrick, WR J.R. Russell, LB Barrett Ruud, TE Alex Smith, T Stefan Rodgers and RB Derek Watson, joined veterans Lawrie, White, K Matt Bryant and DT Ellis Wyms at the Holiday Tent. The players worked hard stuffing food boxes and getting full boxes out to the cars of families who qualified for assistance through the Metropolitan Ministries program.
"It's really tremendous to see all this food out here," said Smith. "We're just trying to get everything boxed up and out to as many people as we can."
Many members of the Buccaneers Women's Organization were hard at work sorting the incoming food donations into the proper crates. Cindy Gruden, Jeanne Bisaccia, Brook Griese, Katy McCown and Jenny Stinchcomb were just a few of the players' and coaches' wives who helped out at the Holiday Tent.
Bethany Bidwell, wife of punter Josh Bidwell, shared in the spirit of Thanksgiving by helping out those who are less fortunate.
"It's a great thing to be doing at Thanksgiving, helping out the community," said Bidwell.
Volunteering at Metropolitan Ministries provided many of the Buccaneers with opportunities to reflect on what they are thankful for this holiday season.
"I'm just thankful for life," said Smith. "I feel like I'm very fortunate to be doing what I'm doing. I'm very fortunate to have my family. It's infinite everything I'm thankful for."