QB Chris Simms was one of five Buccaneers who served as escorts for the models at Tuesdays
Fashion and football might not go together like peanut butter and jelly, necessarily, but that didn't keep five Tampa Bay Buccaneers from strutting their stuff on the catwalk this week.
It's not every day a person gets to see wide receivers Michael Clayton and Mark Jones, linebacker Shelton Quarles and quarterbacks Luke McCown and Chris Simms striking a pose anywhere other than on the football field, but that was the scene at a gala fashion show Tuesday night at Westshore Plaza's Saks Fifth Avenue. And those five Bucs weren't even the focus of the show.
In fact, they were merely accessories. The real attention was on the models the Bucs players escorted, namely a group of 27 courageous young ladies who happen to be in the fight of their lives.
The ladies, who range from four-year-olds to college freshmen, are all battling cancer. And as part of a fundraiser aimed at helping eliminate that disease, each volunteered to serve as a model for the fourth annual "Fashion Funds the Cure" show to benefit the Pediatric Cancer Foundation.
Doing so, that very special group of ladies got the opportunity to model some of the latest fashions and raise much-needed money while being escorted down the runway by Buccaneers players eager to lend a helping hand.
"Anything that is centered around kids is important, and the kids are our future, so I look forward to everything that I can do to help them do as well as they can in society," Quarles said.
"All you have to have is hope and have faith in something, and as long as you have that, you can succeed in anything."
These girls' stories are far from over, but this week's fashion show definitely had a happy ending. In fact, it was of the record-breaking variety.
Thanks to the more than 500 sponsors, donors, models, families, celebrities and volunteers in attendance, an all-time high of $165,000 was raised for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation, noted Lindsay Whitney, director of special events for the foundation.
"We were all moved and inspired by the 27 incredible girls who modeled the true beauty of their spirits, and we are honored to have each of them involved with our organization," Whitney said.
"You know we probably get a lot more credit than we deserve being athletes," he said. "The people that should get the true glory, that have the true heart and guts are these kids who are fighting through some unbelievable circumstances, and I have tremendous respect for them.
And as for the Buccaneers' modeling skills? Eleven-year-old Camille Rawson, who modeled in the event, offered up a candid assessment – at least of "fashionista" Michael Clayton.
"He did alright," she said. "Yeah, he was good. It was fun because Michael Clayton and I are like really buddies and stuff, and a lot of people cheered, and it was fun."
An Idol Nonetheless
If he's not modeling, he's singing – just as long as it's all for a good cause.
There was no Ryan Seacrest to introduce him, but that didn't stop Clayton from doing his best American Idol impression this week at the Tampa Improv in Ybor City.
Taking the stage, Clayton belted out his own rendition of the soulful Bill Withers classic "Ain't No Sunshine." This particular performance was not a popularity contest, however. Rather, it was part of the "Karaoke for the Kids" fundraiser, which showcases local celebrities singing their favorite songs in an effort to raise money for the Oncology Unit at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.
"I've never done karaoke before; I mean, karaoke's a different thing," Clayton said. "You've got to know the words. You can't just know the chorus, you've got to know the words.
"My parents would never ever, ever, ever imagine me in front of a stage with a microphone, ever. I told ya'll, I'm a shower and car singer. I need a record deal – in the shower and the car. Put me on stage with a mic, [and] I may need a little love from my wife. I may need a little help."
Though the public singing performance was unfamiliar territory for the fourth-year receiver, who admittedly was sheepish about taking the stage, Clayton was more than willing to give it his all, considering the cause at stake.
All Children's Hospital is a leading center for pediatric treatment, education and research. It provides specialized care for children of all ages, from newborns through teens. It is one of two freestanding children's hospitals in the state of Florida, and the only one on Florida's West Coast. Patients are admitted to All Children's Hospital from throughout Florida and from many other states and foreign countries.
"We had a great time tonight, enjoyed it definitely because of the cause," Clayton said. "You know I'm always a man with a heart for the kids. We had a lot of supporters out tonight, and I'm glad everyone came out."