When Mark Dominik was named the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' general manager in 2009, he committed himself to building an impactful franchise both on and off the football field. The Buccaneers have certainly received praise for their gridiron success in 2010; now, the team has also been commended for its efforts to give back to the community.
Recently, the Children's Home Society of Florida presented the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Glazer Family Foundation with the 2010 Spirit of Philanthropy Award at the charity's third annual "Helping Hands, Healing Hearts Appreciation Dinner." Dominik was on hand to accept the award on behalf of the team and the Foundation, both of which have embraced the Children's Home Society's mission of protecting and supporting children at risk of abuse, neglect or abandonment.
"You guys are winning off the field, and we are just glad to be a part of it," Dominik told the crowd. "We thank you very much for this award tonight, and this sincerely means a lot to me, because I do feel like we are starting to move in the right direction. Being associated with the Children's Home Society and what you all do in this community, what you give with your time, is what matters the most."
The relationship between the charity and the team blossomed in 2009 when defensive tackle Roy Miller approached the Buccaneers' Community Relations department about identifying a local charity that supported at-risk children. Miller joined a staff member for a tour of Joshua House, a residential group care facility under the Children's Home Society umbrella that provides a nurturing, family-like environment for abused and neglected children age 6-17. At the conclusion of the tour, Miller offered to purchase brand new televisions and Nintendo Wii systems for several of the campus houses in time for the holidays, providing a fun surprise for the residents.
Miller's efforts didn't end there. He and several of his teammates began making regular visits to Joshua House throughout the 2010 offseason. Quarterback Rudy Carpenter, running back Kareem Huggins, wide receiver Micheal Spurlock and others routinely traveled to the housing facility in Lutz to spend time with the kids. When August rolled around, they were invited to training camp as the team's special guests for the day. During 2010 home games, the children had the opportunity to cheer on the Buccaneers from the front row thanks to tickets donations from Sean Jones, Gerald McCoy, Carnell Williams and Kellen Winslow.
Miller's first visit had formed a special bond between the two organizations, one built on shared priorities.
"Part of the initiative, and the agreement, that [Head Coach] Raheem Morris and I have is to rebuild that kind of organization and rebuild that communication and really reach back out to our community and become a member of our community," said Dominik. "It's really about getting the type of people we are trying to bring into our building. To hear the story about Roy Miller is exactly what we dreamed about and what we want to be as an organization."
Dominik stepped up as well, serving as the spokesman for the Children's Home Society's "Let's Tackle This" campaign to promote adoption awareness throughout Central Florida. The Buccaneers' Community Relations department included the charity in events such as the team's Halloween Celebration, and the Glazer Family Foundation presented the nonprofit with new backpacks for school and a holiday shopping spree in December. The strengthened relationship made strides each day to improve the lives of underprivileged children throughout the area.
"We are going to continue to support the great community service like this; we are going to continue build a relationship with it," said Dominik. "You are going to continue to see our football players. Our team is going to continue the relationship with a charity that we think really makes a big impact in our Tampa Bay area."
For more than 100 years, the Children's Home Society of Florida has continued its mission of protecting children and strengthening families. With 14 divisions across Florida, the Society offers a unique spectrum of services that help ensure children live in a safe, healthy environment. Emergency shelter and residential group care, community-based mentoring, foster care support, child protection and dependency case management are just some of their services that aim to break the cycle of abuse.
"It means a great deal to us to have a partner like the Bucs in supporting the well-being of the children of the Tampa Bay area," said Shelley Katz, vice president of operations for the Children's Home Society of Florida. "The Children's Home Society is a 100-plus-year-old organization, and to have a partner with the respect and the community support of the Bucs, I think we can do great things for kids and we're really pleased to have the partnership."
In 2010, the Children's Home Society helped more than 126,000 children and families throughout Florida by redirecting them toward paths of hope and opportunity. By working together, the Buccaneers hope those efforts can increase in magnitude in 2011.
"They said it's the first time we've been up here and won an award [from this charity]," said Dominik. "In reality, shame on us for that. But we are very proud of it tonight, and it's something I hope we are back for. Certainly, we can do more, developing the relationship we have with Joshua House and certainly continuing to raise awareness about adoption and foster care in our community."