The entire Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive line was on hand Tuesday night, who along with Publix Supermarkets, provided over 1,000 full Thanksgiving meals to Bay area families in need at AdventHealth Training Center. It was the 12th Annual Turkey Time with the O-line and under pink and purple skies right outside the new indoor facility, players loaded turkeys, pies, stuffing and even Publix gift cards into each passing car. Kids high-fived the likes of left guard Ali Marpet, center Ryan Jensen, left tackle Donovan Smith and right tackle Demar Dotson as the guys wished each family a Happy Thanksgiving.
Dotson, who is in his tenth year of participating in the event, has seen firsthand how much it has grown and the impact it has on families and players alike.
"All these guys, this is a day off, especially for the players, and they wanted to come out here and give and laugh and everybody is having a good time," Dotson said. "These guys are enjoying it. That's the beauty that I love about it. Just the giving part."
The event itself was started in 2007 by then-Buccaneers offensive linemen Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood. Since his start with the event in 2009, Dotson has seen the numbers grow to almost double what they were. This year, however, there was a twist. As part of the new Social Justice Initiative, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation matched the $35,000 donated by the offensive line and that donation will go to Feeding Tampa Bay. The organization that mobilizes over 550 agency pantries is able to turn each dollar into 10 meals, meaning the Bucs will have facilitated 350,000 meals going towards those in need around Tampa Bay in addition to the 1,000 handed out on Tuesday night.
"It's really cool," first-time participant and Buccaneers guard Alex Cappa said. "You don't realize how many people you're going to be able to reach out to and help, so it's tremendous."
Feeding Tampa Bay's CEO Matt Spence was on hand, packing meals in alongside the Bucs players. He said that beyond the meals, the Bucs are able to provide awareness to underserved families in the community and it's something they are tremendously grateful for.
"Most of these folks that come through the lines like this, they have jobs, they have homes, they have responsibilities, they just don't quite have the same economic resources as all of us," Spence said. "So the meals [the Bucs are] providing are meals that will allow families to do other things with their funds this holiday season."
In each hearty meal was a full 10-12-pound turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed potatoes, vegetables and of course, a pumpkin pie. Families also received a $20 Publix gift card. Cars pulled up at AdventHealth Training Center and were immediately greeted by the Buc Beat line in the holiday spirit. They then passed the DJ booth on the deck of a pirate ship before rolling into the throng of Bucs players, cheerleaders and their families. There were photo ops, well wishes and of course, lots of food.
"That's one of the great things about food is that everybody identifies with it, we understand it, we appreciate it and we all understand that if someone doesn't have access to it, it's not an ok thing," Spence said. "Part of what the Bucs are saying today is hey, we want to do something about that. For us that do this every day, we couldn't ask for a better to partner."
"We know how important is it to eat because we like to eat," Dotson said, smiling ear-to-ear. "We're big guys that like to eat. So we believe every family, especially on Thanksgiving day, should have a Thanksgiving meal."
The entire Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive line was on hand Tuesday night, who along with Publix Supermarkets, provided over 1,000 full Thanksgiving meals to Bay area families in need at AdventHealth Training Center.