On any given day, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Shriners Hospitals for Children-Tampa are busy working on very different tasks. However, the two organizations do share one very important priority, and this week they joined forces in pursuit of that priority: making a difference in the lives of local children.
In partnership with Hess and a group of its community-minded employees, Buccaneers players, cheerleaders and staff members – plus the Buccaneers' Women's Organization – threw a football-themed party for Shriners patients on Monday.
Four Buccaneer players – wide receivers Micheal Spurlock and Arrelious Benn, safety Sean Jones and tackle James Lee – served as the special guests at Monday's party, helping their excited new friends take part in face-painting, dancing, caricature modeling and more. The players interacted with the kids throughout the party, and team mascot Captain Fear livened up the proceedings even more with his usual antics.
"We've just been signing autographs, meeting some of the kids and learning about Shriners and the people that come here," said Spurlock. "It's good to see the kids and how happy they are to see us."
Shriners employees work tirelessly throughout the year to help children cope with difficult circumstances, and their special events are always appreciated by the patients and their families. The involvement of the Buccaneers and Hess only made Monday's party more enjoyable for the kids.
"We usually get a great response to our events that we have for our patients and our families, but when we told them that the Buccaneers players were going to be here tonight, they were thrilled," said Bethanne Demas, director of public relations, outreach and marketing for Shriners Hospitals for Children-Tampa. "Everybody was really excited about this. They think it's a wonderful thing the Buccaneers and Hess have done to help the hospital that cares for them."
Monday's event was part of the "Gridiron Giveback," an effort between the Buccaneers and Hess to make a difference in the lives of kids. At each Buccaneers home game this season, Hess is making a donation to Shriners Hospitals to directly impact the specialty care that young patients receive and to enhance the high-quality treatment and support provided by Shriners healthcare professionals in Tampa. Through the program, Hess will donate a total of $150,000 in 2011 to fund much-needed services and facility upgrades.
"These kids are happy kids," said Hess Regional Director Gary Michniewicz. "Shriners does a great job taking care of these children and their families. It's about doing the right thing because we live here, too. The Buccaneers are here in Tampa. We're here in Tampa…and our heart is with the kids."
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.
"We're extremely grateful for their generosity of the Buccaneers and Hess, for the time, the funds and the awareness that it's brought to an organization that helps so many children," Demas said.
Shriners Hospitals for Children- Tampa is a 60-bed pediatric hospital, research and teaching center, offering comprehensive medical, surgical and rehabilitative care to children with orthopaedic conditions. The facility is part of a 22-hospital health care system that provides specialty pediatric care at no charge to families.
Having the opportunity to visit such an important place held extra meaning for Spurlock.
"I have three girls, so just to come out and see the kids is special to me," he said. "There are some kids out there that look up to you, and just to make a day for them means the world. To come out and give some of our free time is not only giving back to them, but it's also a humbling experience for us."
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. To learn more about what the Buccaneers are doing in the community, click here.