Gerald McCoy has been quite the jet-setter this offseason.
Between flying to Hawaii as an NFC Pro Bowler, testing out his acting skills at the NFL’s Pro Hollywood Boot Camp and appearing in the NFL Network studios as one of the league’s Top 100 players, there's been no shortage of travel opportunities for No. 93.
Perhaps the most significant journeys McCoy has undertaken this spring, however, have been to locations within the Tampa Bay area, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defensive tackle has repeatedly delivered new glasses to underprivileged students on behalf of the Glazer Family Foundation Vision Program. Those trips have strengthened McCoy's already firm resolve to bring help to those who need it in the Buccaneers' community.
"Just in a small area of any city or state there is a school on every corner, so you think, 'How many kids' lives did you just impact?'" said McCoy after his most recent Vision Program event. "If you really think about it, that's astonishing, and it's a great feeling. All of those children's lives changed just because they can now put on glasses."
Last week, McCoy continued to serve as the program's spokesperson by visiting Campbell Park Elementary School in Pinellas County along with Buccaneers Cheerleader Kari, team mascot Captain Fear and members of the Glazer Family Foundation staff. There 70 children battling vision problems were presented a free pair of new glasses by the Foundation group.
"The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not just a football team," said McCoy. "We're about being the best you can be in this life. We're a complete program, we're a complete organization, and we want our community to be the same way. That's why it's so important."
This winter and spring, the Glazer Family Foundation has visited 13 Title I schools throughout Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, where more than 6,100 students have received vision screenings. Follow-up visits have been conducted at each school, with nearly 1,000 children receiving further vision examinations. Out of those examined, 806 have been deemed to need vision correction and have received a free pair of prescription glasses from the Foundation.
The significance of the Foundation's efforts was not lost on T'checoy Na'shae Young, only a second-grader at Campbell Park.
"I can see and read better instead of keeping books close up to me," said Young. "I can see more clearly."
For McCoy, whose Campbell Park trip was his fourth Glazer Family Foundation Vision Program school event this spring, the message is always a simple one.
"I dealt with the same thing when I was a kid," said McCoy. "I had issues reading, not because I couldn't read – I couldn't see. Eliminate that problem altogether and these test scores are going to shoot through the roof because the kids are smart enough. They just couldn't see, but now they can see, so it's great."
The Glazer Family Foundation Vision Program will visit three more Title I schools this spring, supporting educational development throughout the Bay area through improved eyesight.
"What I've enjoyed seeing the most out of all of that is when I ask who wants to go to college, every hand is raised," added McCoy. "For kids this age to want to go to college and for us as an organization to be able to help them, you can't beat that."