Normally on a Saturday night during the season, players are going through their night-before-a-game routine. They're making sure they're hydrated for the next day, getting to sleep early and maybe going through that week's game plan one more time.
This past Saturday night though, with the Buccaneers securing a primetime victory over the division-rival Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football, Bucs players instead came out for "A Night to Achieve Dreams" hosted by quarterback Jameis Winston. The night included both a silent and live auction, as well as a Q&A with the Bucs' signal caller, to raise funds for the JAmeis Winston Dream Forever Foundation. Players in attendance included Mike Evans, Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Ryan Griffin, Blaine Gabbert, Cam Brate and Will Gholston. Winston's head coach, Bruce Arians, was also there with his wife, Christine.
Smith bid on – and won – a BA-signed helmet during the live auction, much to the amusement of his coach and Winston. Gabbert won a Paul McCartney-signed guitar and each player made various donations, some to the tune of $10,000, throughout the course of the evening – all in the name of charity.
By the end of the night, over $300,000 was raised to help youth in the Tampa Bay community through Winston's foundation.
"Being able to get into the community and get to know you guys on a personal level can create relationships for life – and not just because I know how to throw a football or because I can score touchdowns on your fantasy league," Winston continued. "I actually get a chance to be your teammate and help this community grow. Everyone, it doesn't matter if you have kids or don't have kids, you want to see kids be successful because we live in this economy and we all want America to be great, so it starts with our youth and I'm blessed you guys are here."
The Jameis Winston Dream Forever Foundation helps bring technology to youth by way of Winston's 'Dream Rooms.' The first one opened at Alexander Elementary in Tampa and consists of world-class equipment including up to 25 iPads, 3-D printers and 'smart' whiteboards that can turn a child's drawing into a working pattern for robotics equipment.
It was announced on Saturday night that the next Dream Room will be opening at Tyrone Middle School in St. Petersburg. This comes in an effort to not only enhance the youth educational process but enhance their trades and bolster an area Winston feels is lacking: technology. Winston noted during the event that there are more jobs open in the tech field than there are applicants, in fact.
"It's so important because with kids, not only are we helping them out with opportunities, we want to teach these kids how to dream," Winston said. "The more they can be hands-on and be creative in their own minds, they're better off."