Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Holiday Spirit

In two separate events this week, Mike Alstott and Roman Oben brightened the holiday season for hundreds of local children

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FB Mike Alstott ran a thrilled group of Joshua House kids through football drills on Tuesday

Fullback Mike Alstott has become one of the most popular Tampa Bay Buccaneers ever since arriving in 1996, in part because of his bruising, highlight-reel runs and in part because of his commitment to the community.

After seven very productive seasons, Alstott has spent most of 2003 on the sideline due to a neck injury. However, his contributions in the community haven't waned this fall. That was evident on Thursday when, for the seventh straight year, the personable big man joined the children at the Joshua House for his annual holiday visit. The Joshua House provides emergency shelter care and residential group care services for abused, abandoned, and neglected children.

Alstott began the afternoon by pausing at the Joshua House Christmas tree to take individual pictures with the children and give each a signed Buccaneers autograph card and a Buccaneers Super Bowl XXXVII Championship poster. After playing the roll of Santa Claus, Alstott invited the kids out into the common area to take part in his football clinic.

"Anything I can do to support and help out, I'm here for them," said Alstott. "We've been doing it a long time and I really appreciate the facility and the organization and what they do for the kids."

The first segment of Alstott's camp was a pass-catching drill where the kids divided up into two teams and raced against one another. The drill began with the children racing over multi-colored, stuffed speed bumps and into a box. Once in the box they turned around and caught a pass, then weaved through several cones before sprinting across the finish line.

Momentary disputes broke out over who won the two relay races, but they were quickly forgotten when Alstott urged the kids on to the next station.

"They were having fun and I was having fun, too," said Alstott. "It's a great thing to be a part of."

The next station was called, appropriately enough, the A-Train.

The A-Train began with the kids weaving around several cones and then sprinting through a ladder drill, making sure a foot hit in each rung of the ladder. After the ladder, the kids took a handoff from Alstott before running over several speed bumps and around a cone. At the end, they dived over or through two heavy blocking dummies to cross the goal line. As an added bonus, the kids were all encouraged to perform their favorite end zone dance after crossing the goal line.

Additional drills allowed the kids to run through blocking dummies and rush the quarterback like Warren Sapp.

"Just seeing them in the obstacle courses, the kids had a ball," said Alstott. "It's the interaction with the kids, the smiles on their faces and just the one-on-one time with the kids that make this event so special to me. It's a great time to come out here and be with them and I'm happy to do it."

For more information on the Joshua House, please call (813) 949-8946 or visit www.joshuahouse.com.

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Roman Holiday

At the same time Alstott was playing football with the youngsters at the Joshua House, Bucs tackle Roman Oben was at the University Area Community Center (UACC) helping to provide a memorable Christmas for 135 boys and girls.

For the past several weeks, Oben has been working with local businesses to collect gifts to distribute to the children who attend programs at the UACC. Oben's program not only makes for a warmer holiday seasons for dozens of children but also helps to ease the financial crunch their parents experience at this time of year.

"These are parents who aren't on welfare, but have two or three jobs and are really trying to improve their situation," said Oben. "With the businesses were trying to ensure that all of the children have at least one gift, to help alleviate some of the burden on the parents."

Oben, who became involved with the facility after a visit this past summer, was more than happy to lend his time to the array of activities the UACC had planned for the evening. In addition to the gift giveaway, the patrons of the club were treated to a magic show, a pizza party and a guest appearance from State Senator Victor Crist, who helped spearhead the building of the UACC.

The pizza and the magic show entertained the crowd while the presents were arranged around the Christmas tree in the center's community room.

"It's exciting to know that people truly have a heart and that people out there really care," said Sen. Crist. "What Mr. Oben is doing out here today is truly wonderful. He's not just giving of his resources, he's here giving his valuable time and ultimately that's what's most important to these kids."

The kids were arranged in age groups from 21 months to 14 years, then brought by group into the community room. Waiting were Oben, Santa Claus and one of Santa's elves. The children waited for their names to be called, then came forward for their gift, as well as a football card signed by Oben, a Bucs Super Bowl poster and a candy cane.

The older children in the crowd decided to hold their gifts until Christmas but several of the younger, more eager children opened their presents on the spot. Those who did then showered Oben, Santa and the elf with hugs, kiss and thanks. The big tackle was moved by the display of affection.

"It makes you feel good to look in their eyes and see the smiles on their faces," said Oben. "I was in a similar position when I was younger and it's great to be in the position I am now where I can give back to these kids.

"Every kid deserves a chance to enjoy Christmas."

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