For the 14th year in a row, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Raymond James Financial teamed up to continue a tradition of raising money for hospitalized children in the Bay area through the "Kicking for Kids" program.
On Wednesday, April 16th, Buccaneers kicker Connor Barth and representatives from Raymond James Financial presented a total of $23,000 to three local children's hospitals through "Kicking for Kids." The funds were distributed to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando and St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa. Since the program's inception, more than $250,000 has been raised to support the care of hospitalized youths.
"This is going to be my sixth year doing this, so it's always a part of what I do," said Barth. "Every time I go out on that field, there's a part of me that's wanting to help out these kids."
As part of the "Kicking for Kids" program, Raymond James Financial donates $1,000 to designated children's hospitals for every field goal converted by the Buccaneers during the regular season. In place of Barth, who was sidelined in 2013 due to injury, veteran Rian Lindell performed well, connecting on 23 of 29 field goals, including four of 50 yards or more.
"To be in a position to make the financial contributions in and of itself is gratifying, but even far more to be here in person with the recipient hospitals and with the children," said Tash Elwyn, president of Raymond James & Associates Private Client Group. "To be able to witness firsthand the lives you're impacting, it's an honor to be here."
On Wednesday, that impact was felt by everyone involved. Barth, along with the help of Captain Fear and a Buccaneers Cheerleader, welcomed the benefitting hospitals, as well as local patients and their families, to One Buccaneer Place for a formal presentation, reception and behind-the-scenes look at the team's facility.
"For them to really just be able to get outside of the situations that they're having and to be able to experience the life of someone like Connor, I think it just really exposes them to a whole other side of the world that they would not have the opportunity to do," said Jenine Rabin, executive vice president of All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. "This is just great."
Following the presentation, Barth led the group through some of the more popular areas of One Buccaneer Place, including the team's practice fields. There, the children got a surprise visit from new Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown, who greeted the group, snapped pictures with the kids, and even took a couple of eager children on a golf cart ride around the practice fields.
At the conclusion of the afternoon, the visitors also had the opportunity to try on the new Buccaneers helmet and gloves. While posing with one of the patients, Barth truly realized what the program is all about.
"It's amazing to help these kids with all they've been through, just to talk to them," Barth added. "I told one of the girls not to hurt herself putting on the helmet, and she said, 'I've been through brain surgery, I'm fine.' To hear those kinds of things, what we go through on the field, working out, is nothing compared to what they have to go through. We always want to score touchdowns, but if we kick field goals, we know a little bit of money is going to these kids and these children's hospitals to help them. It's just an awesome thing."