Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Building Hope

Bucs WR Keenan McCardell visited Tampa on Tuesday to plan a busy 'offseason' with his Touching Hands Foundation, beginning with an uplifting visit to the Hope Lodge

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WR Keenan McCardell (right) saw firsthand the good work going on at the Hope Lodge and will use his Touching Hands Foundation to offer help

As is amply demonstrated each year at this point on the calendar, the word 'offseason' is due for retirement in the NFL. Personnel departments are in a mid-season grind trying to keep up with and manage free agency. Coaches are preparing workout and mini-camp plans and poring over film to find new wrinkles. A large number of players are testing the market and trying to establish their NFL homes for the next three or four years.

Even those players who are comfortably under contract and are awaiting the start of their team's offseason conditioning program have no trouble staying busy. That is certainly the case with Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Keenan McCardell, who is using a good portion of his current free time to make an impact on the Bay area community.

On Tuesday, McCardell spent a good portion of his day with the caring people of the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Hope Lodge in Tampa. McCardell, who flew in from his 'offseason' home in Texas just for this opportunity, arrived in Tampa in the morning and drove directly to a meeting to discuss his current and future contributions to both the ACS and the Hope House via his Touching Hands Foundation.

The Touching Hands Foundation was founded by McCardell in 1998 with the goal of reducing cancer risks. The Foundation hopes to accomplish this by supporting outreach programs that promote early detection and healthier lifestyles in diverse and underserved communities. When developing the Foundation and its programs, McCardell recognized that many families living in underserved communities lack basic necessities, including food, shelter, insurance and the chance to receive a quality education. The Touching Hands Foundation offers financial support and program assistance to non-profit organizations that serve the disadvantaged.

"After having some family members and a close friend go through the trauma of having cancer, and even losing one of them, I knew that this was what I wanted to do," said McCardell. "Seeing the effects of this disease firsthand is very powerful. Now that I have the opportunity to give back, it's something I take great pride in doing."

Before McCardell's meeting began, Susan Rabel, the Director of the Hope Lodge took the opportunity to introduce the receiver, the visiting American Cancer Society representatives and their financial partners to the Lodge. The Hope Lodge is a non-medical, residential facility designed to offer housing, emotional support and referral services free of charge to any cancer patient who travels to the Tampa Bay area for treatment.

On the tour, McCardell learned that the Hope Lodge in Tampa, just opened in June of 2002, is the third such facility in Florida, joining ones established in Miami and Gainesville, and the 19th Lodge in the United States.

"The Hope Lodge is a place where patients don't feel isolated and afraid to talk with people about their problems, since most of them are going through a similar situation," said Rabel. "It's not just about the financial burden that we remove, it's more about providing the help with the emotional struggle that cancer can bring."

In addition to rooms, all of which come with private bathrooms and a sitting area, the Lodge also provides activities and outlets for the patients. Using community meals, game nights, computer rooms, a children's room, a library filled with books, a pool table, family areas and a large recreational area, the Lodge attempts to make the patients as comfortable as possible.

During the 2002 season, McCardell donated $5,800 to the American Cancer Society for his on-the-field performance. He then set his performance-based donation amounts for the 2003 season, pledging $100 for every reception and $500 for every touchdown. The money will be earmarked for the Hope Lodge and Breast Cancer Research.

McCardell will also raise funds for these causes during the offseason, with the biggest event being his Celebrity Golf Classic. A two-day event (June 22-23), the Celebrity Golf Classic will pair lucky foursomes with one of today's brightest stars from the worlds of sports and entertainment. To be held at the Avila Golf & Country Club, the tournament will include various contests, raffles, individual prizes, team awards and much more. Additionally, autographed memorabilia will be featured in a silent auction with a barbeque luncheon rounding out the day. The evening prior to the tournament will include a private pairings party, making it possible for event participants to mingle with all of the invited celebrities. All proceeds will equally benefit the Touching Hands Foundation and the American Cancer Society.

"The golf tournament is a fun way for us to raise money for a great cause," said McCardell. "Pairing that with the Casino Night that we have planned, it should be a good time and it should help some very special people."

McCardell's Casino Night is tentatively planned for the Fall of 2003 and it will feature gaming, live music and exotic foods. Again, all proceeds will benefit the Touching Hands Foundation and the American Cancer Society.

After the meeting was over, McCardell showed his true commitment to the residents at the Hope Lodge by spending time getting to know the residents who were relaxing in the Winn-Dixie Dining Hall. Word of McCardell's presence spread quickly through the facility and generated quite a buzz, with many residents coming down to the hall to meet a Super Bowl hero.

"This was a phenomenal spirit lifter for these folks," said Rabel. "It just means a lot to them that he took the time and was interested in them. It was just a great morale booster for the residents and staff."

For more information on how you can sign up to be a part of the Keenan McCardell Celebrity Golf Classic, please cal Janice Henry of the American Cancer Society at (813) 254-3630 ext. 303 and stayed tuned to Buccaneers.com for updates about McCardell's Casino Night.

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