As a Public Assistance Eligibility Specialist, Diana Rose has spent the last four years working with needy individuals and families in an effort to determine their eligibility for food assistance, Medicaid and temporary cash assistance. Her goal is to make people's lives a little better each day.
Rose's desire to help those in need is based on empathy; in some ways, she knows exactly what they're going through. Determined not to let her own difficult circumstances keep her down, she was spending two hours each day traveling to work by public transportation. She was never late, and she didn't talk about her lack of a reliable vehicle around the office because she loves her job and her co-workers.
Rose's supervisor knew the situation, however. Donna Lytwyn, operations program administrator for the Department of Children and Families, was impressed by her employee's dedication to her job, so she reached out to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for help in rewarding Rose for her hard work and selflessness.
One Monday, April 30, the Buccaneers answered her call, and in the process made a very positive impact on the lives of Diana Rose and her family.
Shortly after a staff meeting at her office on Monday, Rose walked outside to a round of cheers from co-workers and Buccaneers cheerleaders. As she got further down the sidewalk, she locked her eyes on a brand new 2012 Ford Focus parked in the lot with a shiny bow on the hood. As she approached even closer, she couldn't believe her eyes. Buccaneer linebackers Quincy Black and Dekoda Watson were on hand to present Rose with keys to a brand new car as the culmination of the team's third annual "Road to Success" program.
The Road to Success program was initiated by the Buccaneers in order to identify and help an individual whose life would be greatly improved by the addition of a vehicle. Buccaneer fans were prompted to share stories about friends, family members or co-workers who fit that description and were well deserving of a little help. More than 400 people were nominated this year. As tears of joy ran down Rose's face on Monday, everyone could see she was the perfect choice.
In fact, the Buccaneers' gift will only help Rose reach more people in need. For example, she will no longer have to walk three miles each way to Clearwater High School in order to continue serving as a student mentor. She will also find it easier to get to Bellair Elementary School, where she is an active member of the P.T.A. and where she shows up each Thursday to tutor math students. Rose has also developed a poetry lesson for the sixth grade Language Arts Department at Largo Middle School, and she is currently in the process of publishing a poetry book for the students.
Not surprisingly, Rose was initially overwhelmed by the sight or her new car, as well as the news that the Buccaneers were providing her with Hess gasoline for an entire year and six months of car insurance from Geico.
"I honestly do not know what's going through my mind right now," said Rose. "I'm very thankful, very, very thankful."
With two of her boys, Matthew and Drake, by her side, Rose thanked everyone at her office who had helped make this particular Monday an unforgettable one.
"I'm just amazingly blessed," she said. "Every day is a good day here. I can't honestly say I have had a bad day because I love my job. This tops anything in my life, actually."
With a smile, Rose added: "I've never won anything before, ever."
Maybe that's why it took so long for the surprise to sink in on Monday. Rose said she noticed the Buccaneers tent shading the car as she walked out of her office, but she figured it was for someone else. Her face gave away her true feelings when she realized the car was hers, and Watson was moved by the happiness the gift brought her.
"It is very humbling," Watson said. "You see a lot of people that are struggling and there are a lot more heroes than just us as football players. There are heroes that do a lot more than what we do, and having four kids, having her job, and being a tutor at the same time; of course she needs to be rewarded for that and be recognized."
Lytwyn said she was ecstatic for the last two weeks as she was waiting on this moment to happen for Rose, and had a hard time holding herself together walking down to the car with Rose by her side.
"I started crying, and then I just told her that I just thought she was so deserving," Lytwyn said. "It couldn't have happened to a better person. For me to know that she has a solid mode of transportation to get her back and forth for daily essentials, it is probably one of the most rewarding things I have done in my career."
Part of Rose's routine will now be driving her son to soccer practice, taking the family on a vacation, and driving back and forth from Fort Myers, as Rose was also informed she will be starting a new job in July.
"I wouldn't have been able to go to Fort Myers without this, not at all," Rose said.
As things calmed down and she was able to put owning a new car into perspective, Rose once again turned to putting others first as she exclaimed her thanks to the Bucs for making this day one her family will cherish forever.
"The Buccaneers are an amazingly giving organization," she said. "I don't know of any major league team that gives more than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They give to children, they give to families, and obviously they have given to me."
Rose will get out of bed tomorrow once again on a mission to helping others to the best of her ability, but on this day, it was others who lent her a much-needed helping hand.