"When Christmastime comes, I love to give and my wife does, too."
Those were the words of Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans following a holiday breakfast at AdventHealth Training Center Tuesday morning, where he surprised 13 deserving schoolchildren with items from their holiday wish lists. It was the second event in the Mike Evans Family Foundation's Annual Catch for Christmas and followed a charity bowling tournament on Monday night with many of his teammates in attendance.
Each year, Evans gives back to members of the local community through his Catch for Christmas efforts. His celebrity bowling tournament, which included fellow wide receivers Chris Godwin, Scotty Miller and Breshad Perriman, along with their quarterback Jameis Winston, among others, was held at AMF University Lanes this year and included a silent auction, as well as the chance for attendees to bowl with their favorite players. It was all a successful effort to raise money for the Mike Evans Family Foundation, which supports, empowers, encourages and motivates today's youth with an understanding that no goal is unattainable. Its efforts focus on providing underprivileged youth the opportunity to go to college as well as aiding families that are victims of domestic violence, a deeply personal cause for Evans.
View photos from Mike Evans Family Foundation annual bowling fundraiser where community members bowled with Mike Evans and other Buccaneers players.
The very next morning, 13 schoolchildren visited AdventHealth Training Center for a holiday breakfast. Little did they know they'd be joined by Evans himself, who sat around the table as kids decorated pancakes and ate Grinch-themed waffles on the players' day off. Evans then took the group on a tour of the facility, ending in the team meeting room. Only, instead of coaches waiting for them, the kids had items from their holiday wish lists waiting on the stage, each marked with a balloon displaying every child's name.
"It's awesome," Evans said of seeing the children's faces light up upon receiving their gifts. "We were all kids once and we know that feeling. It could change a life, you never know. Just the experience – not the toys or gifts, just the experience. It's been a great experience; the kids had an awesome time and we look forward to doing this each year."
Evans was joined by his own family. Wife, Ashli, was in attendance, along with their daughter, three-year-old Ariah, who had fun tailing her dad and helping surprise all the kids. Evans remembers how hard his own mother worked to give him and his sister good Christmases growing up, and it's spurred his passion for helping and giving to others this time of year.
To learn more about the Mike Evans Family Foundation, visit https://mikeevansofficial.com/foundation/.