Since joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2009, kicker Connor Barth has repeatedly proved his value on the gridiron, increasing his total of successful field goals every year he's been with the team. That upward trend has been particularly rewarding for hospitalized children in the Bay area, thanks to the ongoing "Kicking for Kids" program.
This past season, Barth was one of the most dependable kickers in the NFL, and once again his achievements on the field have paid significant dividends off the field.
On Tuesday, Barth and representatives from Raymond James Financial presented a total of $28,000 to three children's hospitals through "Kicking for Kids." The funds will be distributed to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, and St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. The donation was based on Barth's career-high 28 field goals made in 2012.
"Anything you can do to help these children and hospitals and support them gives me an extra incentive when I go out there on Sunday," said Barth. "It's not only helping the team win, but it's also helping a great cause in the community with the different hospitals."
As part of the long-running "Kicking for Kids" program, Raymond James Financial donated $1,000 toward the designated children's hospitals for each of the field goals made by the Buccaneers last season. Barth had arguably his most impressive campaign in 2012, connecting on 28 of 33 field goal attempts, including six from more than 50 yards and a career-long 57-yarder in Week Four against Washington.
"It's been such a great cause and the relationship with the Buccaneers has been fantastic between the stadium and the Kicking for Kids [program]," said Evan Whittle, Raymond James Financial complex director in St. Petersburg. "It just seems a natural fit for us."
That fit was all the more apparent on Tuesday, as Barth – accompanied by Buccaneers Cheerleaders and Captain Fear – welcomed representatives from Raymond James Financial and the benefitting hospitals, as well as local patients and their families, to One Buccaneer Place for a formal presentation, reception, and behind-the-scenes facility tour.
"It really means a lot to the hospital because it shows that we have many supporters in the community, and shows how much people do care about our children," said Erin Silber, certified child life specialist at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital. "Today, we had a lot of our chronic patients here, kids that are in and out of the hospital consistently whose families are dealing with a variety of things. So for them and their families to be able to have some fun and just forget about their illness, it's a great experience and kind of a break for everyone."
In its 13th year, the "Kicking for Kids" initiative has donated more than $230,000 to children's hospitals through its relationship with the Buccaneers.
"It's greatly appreciated because the Buccaneers are such a huge figure and organization in the community, so to have them behind us and to partner with them is amazing," said Silber. "To have their support is just beyond words."
Added Barth: "Touchdowns are great, but if we can get three points and continue this great thing, that's awesome, too."