Providing hundreds of at-risk children with an exciting day at the ballpark is just one small portion of what the Glazer Family Foundation accomplishes under Roni Costello
(By Kevin Kaminski, NFL Insider)
There was plenty in Roni Costello's background to suggest the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were pursuing the right person to join their front office in 1996.
Unfortunately, there was nothing in the team's immediate past to offer Costello similar comfort. The team had been struggling for a long time — in fact, it had been out of the playoff picture since 1982.
Though new owner Malcolm Glazer promised to change the team's ways, the franchise had yet to reverse its fortunes when Costello was offered a position as the team's vice president of sales administration.
After a decade in state politics — including the job of Central Florida district assistant to U.S. Senator Bob Graham — and working as a corporate consultant, Costello was being asked to pitch the Buccaneers to a fan base that had been quick to don paper bags when things turned sour.
For someone who thrives on challenges, it proved the perfect fit.
"There's nothing better than a horse race," Costello says. "And this was a great opportunity to try and sell something that seemed like it couldn't be sold.
"Winning ultimately helped a lot (the team has reached the playoffs two of the past three seasons). But the Glazers are risk-takers, and they think out of the box. They gave me every tool imaginable to put together a really good plan. They had a vision. And it worked."
From the beginning, the Glazers' vision included a charitable arm focusing on youth in the greater Tampa Bay area, as well as Central Florida. After managing record sales last spring, Costello became a natural to serve as executive director of the Glazer Family Foundation.
In a little over a year, the foundation already has donated close to $1 million to various youth-related projects.
"This really brought me back to my roots in community relations, business, and politics," says Costello, who spent eight years working with the Florida legislature in Tallahassee and also served as the director of public affairs for Hill and Knowlton. "I like start-ups, and I like to master a lot of challenges. Along with my knowledge of the team and what the owners wanted to do with the foundation, it really pulled everything in my past together."
It also continued her tradition of deadline work with the Glazers. In her capacity as a corporate consultant with Tucker/Hall, Costello had helped the Glazer family in 1996 as it attempted to gain voter support for a half-cent sales tax to finance Raymond James Stadium. After the referendum passed, and Costello accepted the Glazers' offer to move client-side, the organization had roughly 18 months to sell all the club seats and luxury suites at the new stadium.
Successful in her first two ventures with the Buccaneers' new owners, the Glazers approached Costello in January of 1999 about the foundation — then gave her four months to research and help launch the project.
"There was no need to reinvent the wheel," says the 44-year-old Costello, a graduate of Florida State University. "Clearly, we wanted to work with some organizations (that were) already established. But we also wanted to create programs we felt would advocate positive social development in kids."
To that end, the Glazer Family Foundation already has been a godsend for countless children:
• A project called "Cheering You On" will donate roughly 33,000 Buccaneers teddy bears and interactive activity books annually to five pediatric hospitals in the Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg area, and two in Orlando.
"Hopefully, it gives these children something to cuddle and something to keep them going while they're in the hospital," Costello says.
• This past June, the foundation awarded its first cycle of small ($1,000 to $2,000) grants to several organizations. Among the recipients was a program called "Kids and Canines" involving at-risk youths who learn to train the dogs, which assist children in wheelchairs. Another grant provided 1,000 Boy Scouts uniforms to inner-city kids whose parents couldn't afford the clothing.
"In doing research, I found that there is a black hole with regard to smaller grants," Costello says. "Say an organization needs $1,000 to buy a washer and dryer. Those are the grants which fall through the cracks … we focus on the tangible grants — things we know will have an immediate impact."
In addition to its other charitable causes, the foundation purchases tickets to every home game (and supplies a T-shirt and $12 in refreshment money) for 100 at-risk children.
"I've heard several different descriptions of what we do," Costello says. "Organized chaos is the one I hear the most… but yes, working with the foundation has been very rewarding. And it says plenty about the people I work for."