On Friday, 50 women from Central Florida enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime experience in honor of Mother's Day as part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Mother's Day Makeover event. It was the most expansive version yet of the Buccaneers' popular annual occasion, and for the second year in a row it paid specific attention to those special moms in the military.
During the month of April, the Buccaneers searched for compelling stories of mothers who are currently U.S. military members, are mothers of U.S. military members or are spouses/partners of a U.S. military member and would benefit from a day of pampering and relaxation. The eventual participants were chosen based on 1,500-word essays submitted by loved ones during the nomination process.
Those honored guests also enjoyed a new twist, as the team transformed One Buccaneer Place, its state-of-the-art headquarters, into a full-service spa for the day.
Two large rooms regularly utilized for team press conferences and media availabilities were given a makeover themselves, as mirrors, hair spray and nail polish filled the area for guests to enjoy manicures, massages, hair styling, makeup and fashion tips.
The unique event also included a greeting from Mickey Williams, an internationally-renowned beauty consultant with extensive experience in the fashion and lifestyle industry.
"These women have done amazing things with their lives and the sacrifices they've taken," said Williams, "so I just kind of want to let them know that the reason why I'm here is to support this day but also to thank them for my freedom to do whatever I want in my life."
Williams also pointed to how the simple use of an item such as lipstick can have a positive influence on one's self-esteem.
"Everyone always says that it's what's on the inside that counts and it's not necessarily what's on the outside, but we all know that when we look better we feel a lot better," added Williams. "If there's one little thing that they can do to make their day a little bit brighter, if it's putting on a lipstick or doing anything that makes them feel like that's a little second for them to have with themselves, then I want to encourage it. Today is their full day of beauty, so it's just amazing that they get this opportunity."
Friday's guests at "One Buc Spa" earned that opportunity through daily sacrifice and commitment to both their families and their nations. The Buccaneers received many deserving Mother's Day Makeover nominations during April and worked hard to pick the winners.
"It was difficult to select our 50 from the wonderful nominations that we did get," said Eileen Sweeney, the Buccaneers' director of community relations. "We really looked for the stories of the sacrifices that the military moms were making. I have to say all of the nominations were truly inspiring. It was a tough choice to make."
Michele Robinette, a Tinker Elementary School kindergarten teacher on MacDill Air Force Base, has not only raised two children who serve in the armed forces but is married to Command Master Chief Johnny Robinette, a warfare specialist at MacDill.
"This is the first year we've been back in 26 years to Tampa," said Robinette. "We've been stationed away from family for a very long time and there have been organizations like the Bucs that have come into my children's lives that have made it so they are not thinking about their dad being away on a ship. They're more thinking about the concert or the football game, so it means a lot when the community steps in and becomes a part of your family."
Robinette, who was nominated by her daughter, was incredibly touched by the nomination itself.
"What surprised me was how much she paid attention growing up," said Robinette of her daughter. "She is now in the Coast Guard down in Key West and my son is in the Navy in Pensacola. Growing up, she witnessed me raising them while my husband was out to sea and all the things I would do for them and how I put my life on hold, my teaching career went on hold. She wrote a lot into that about how I put everything on hold and raised these two great kids and now I'm pursuing my dreams, so it was pretty amazing."
That sentiment was shared by many on Friday, a day also recognized across the country as national Military Spouse Appreciation Day.
For Angie Hewitt, a mother of two whose husband serves in the Air Force, the day couldn't have been better.
"I think it's wonderful that the Bucs are doing this," added Angie Hewitt. "I think it really makes me feel appreciated not only as a mom, but as a military spouse to know that the community appreciates us and has reached out to do something nice for us as military moms."