This season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Hess are teaming up to make a difference in the lives of children with the 2011 "Gridiron Giveback." Beginning with the Buccaneers' preseason opener on Thursday night against the New England Patriots, and continuing throughout 2011 at each home game, Hess will make a donation to Shriners Hospitals for Children-Tampa. This initiative will directly impact the specialty care that young patients receive and enhance the high-quality treatment and support provided by Shriners healthcare professionals in Tampa.
"The Buccaneers are proud to work with Hess and Shriners Hospitals in the name of helping children," said Buccaneers Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer. "I can't think of a better focus for Hess' community-minded initiatives than the health and wellness of our kids."
Through the "Gridiron Giveback," Hess will make a donation at each home game for a total of $150,000 in 2011 to fund much-needed services and facility upgrades including:
- A sun cover for the playground to provide shade for recreational therapy
- A rock climbing wall for patient rehabilitation
- Customized wheelchairs that adjust to patients' needs
- A treatment recliner for spinal surgery patients
- A sewing machine for orthotics and prosthetics
- Educational iPads to teach patients about their surgery
"Developing programs like Gridiron Giveback is part of our commitment to the communities we serve daily," said Rick Lawlor, vice president of retail marketing for Hess Corporation. "We're delighted to lend our support to Shriners Hospitals for Children-Tampa and help raise awareness about the wonderful work they do for the kids in their care."
Hess is one of the leading independent gasoline-convenience retailers on the East Coast with more than 1,360 stations and convenience stores in 16 states including 290 locations in Florida.
Shriners Hospitals for Children-Tampa is a 60-bed pediatric hospital, research and teaching center, providing comprehensive medical, surgical and rehabilitative care to children with orthopaedic conditions. The hospital is part of the 22-hospital health care system that provides specialty pediatric care at no charge to families.
"The patients, families, staff, Shriners and leadership of Shriners Hospitals for Children-Tampa are grateful to Hess for its donation that enhances Shriners' expert care," said Bethanne Demas, director of public relations, outreach and marketing for Shriners Hospitals for Children-Tampa. "We are very excited about the Gridiron Giveback and the impact it will have on our kids."
At each home game, the "Gridiron Giveback" will be showcased through a feature video aired on Raymond James Stadium's BucVision boards. The videos will highlight different children who have been impacted by the program and will be hosted by 11-year-old Leigh Dittman of Tampa.
"What's really awesome about it is the fact that the two different groups are coming together to help one cause and this cause helps almost one million kids," said Dittman. "We are almost at a million, so that's pretty cool. It's just amazing how they are coming together and donating $150,000. It's amazing – basically, there is no other word to say."
Dittman, a patient ambassador for Shriners Hospitals, has battled osteogenesis imperfecta (commonly known as Brittle Bone Disease) throughout her life. At the remarkably young age of three, Dittman asked her parents what she could do to return the favor to the hospital that had provided her some much-needed care and support.
What resulted, with the help of family and friends, was the inaugural Leigh Dittman Charity Event to benefit Shriners. This September will mark the eighth annual fundraiser hosted by the young patient, who still routinely gets treatment at the hospital that has cared for her throughout her life.
A huge Buccaneers fan, Dittman's close relationships with Buccaneers players and organization officials has also helped strengthen the team's ties with Shriners Hospitals for Children-Tampa and the Buccaneers' ongoing commitment to supporting pediatric care. And it makes her a perfect fit to host the Gridiron Giveback videos for fans to enjoy at Raymond James Stadium.
"It means a lot, because first the hospital helps but you don't really know what to do to say thank you for all the work that they've done," said Dittman. "This is just one thing we came up with… and being on the jumbo screen is pretty cool, too."
Every year, Buccaneers players, coaches, cheerleaders, alumni and staff donate their time and efforts to helping Central Florida's children, families and underserved populations. Through team donations, engaging community initiatives, NFL outreach programs and appearances, nearly 1,000 nonprofit organizations benefit from the team's charitable endeavors throughout the year.
Thanks to their generosity, Hess will now have a lasting legacy with one of the premier children's healthcare facilities in the Bay area.
"It's just amazing to think that it's going to be helping all different kids throughout the hospital and some kids that need surgery and casts and equipment," said Dittman. "It means a lot to know that you are helping kids."