TE Todd Yoder helps a Children's Home resident plan the carving of a pumpkin
Tampa Bay Buccaneers players are sent on a wide variety of community appearances throughout out the year, but Jamie Duncan likes the ones where he can get his hands dirty.
On Tuesday, October 30, Duncan was back at the Children's Home for the second straight year, participating in an annual Halloween Party with residents at the home and a half dozen of his teammates. At some point during the two-hour event, it was inevitable – Duncan was going to have pumpkin guts all over his hands.
Actually, all of the Bucs in attendance – Duncan, Cosey Coleman, James Cannida, John Howell, Pete Pierson, Aaron Stecker, Russ Hochstein and Todd Yoder – put there hands into the slimy interior of a pumpkin at some point during the afternoon, some with more relish than others. Once again, Duncan got a kick out of it because, amazingly, he had never carved a pumpkin before his last visit to the Children's Home.
And having fun was what this afternoon was all about. Duncan and his teammates mingled with over 40 residents of the Children's Home, ranging from ages five to 18, helping them through a variety of activities and simply relating to them, person-to-person.
"I'm out here for these kids, because they look forward to meeting professional athletes," said Duncan. "It's a big thing for them, like the Super Bowl, a dream come true.
We just want them to realize that some of their favorite athletes and entertainers are regular people, just like they are. These kids have dreams and aspirations just like we did, and those dreams are within their reach. Sometimes, they put us on this pedestal, and it's good for us to come out here and show them we're regular people."
The Children's Home houses over 70 children who have backgrounds of severe abuse and neglect. Many of the kids involved in the highly publicized cases of abuse in the area are taken into the Home, where a structured family unit and their everyday needs are provided. In addition to family life and schooling, the Children's Home tries to make life as normal as possible for these residents by providing activities such as skating, attending sporting events and birthday parties and playing sports.
To lift their spirits further, the Home has had a long and fruitful relationship with the Buccaneers.
"They watch the games every week and are lucky enough to go to some of the games, courtesy of the players," said Residential Director Todd Boulanger. "To have the guys coming out here and spending a little time with them is great. They love it."
The kids who attended the party carved pumpkins, decorated trick-or-treat bags, got their faces painted and tattoos applied and generally had a day of fun and merriment. At the end, the pumpkins and bags were judged in a contest and every partygoer was a winner.
Most of the time, though, was devoted to the carving of the pumpkins, done hand-in-hand with the Buccaneer players.
"Hopefully, what they take away from this is that they're just regular people," said Boulanger of the relationship between the kids and the visiting Bucs. "These are guys that care about them, that want to do something for the community and help the kids have a Happy Halloween."