The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Glazer Family Foundation continued their efforts to promote healthy living and physical fitness by hosting a pair of Tuesday events supporting the wellness of the Bay area community.
First, Buc players Brandon McDonald, Chris Owusu, Keith Tandy and Dekoda Watson, along with Buccaneers Cheerleaders, visited Davis Elementary School in the morning to dedicate the latest Buccaneers Fitness Zone as part of the "Gridiron Giveback."
Through a joint effort between the Buccaneers and Hess Corporation, five elementary schools were the recipients this fall of a Fitness Zone – a sail-style court cover designed to protect children from extreme heat and direct sunlight. The school also received a $3,000 volunteer project from the Buccaneers and Hess, as well as a $5,000 donation for new athletic equipment. In total, $175,000 in donations have been made by the Buccaneers and Hess this season through the "Gridiron Giveback."
Following the school event, Buc players Ahmad Black, Nate Byham, Mason Foster, Anthony Gaitor and Tiquan Underwood visited the Feeding America Tampa Bay facility to assist more than 80 UnitedHealthCare volunteers in sorting food that will be donated to the less fortunate this holiday season.
Thomas Mantz, Executive Director of Feeding America Tampa Bay, was grateful for the efforts of not only the Glazer Family Foundation and the visiting players but also local Buc fans, and the impact they have had on fighting community hunger.
"What [the Buccaneers] do in addition to raising food, meals and money for us is bring awareness to the cause of hunger to the community," Mantz said. "When they collect almost 2,000 pounds of food, it creates meals, it puts more into the community and it puts something on an individual's plate at the end of the day."
Tuesday's volunteer initiative was in conjunction with the "Sack Hunger and Holiday Toy Drive" at Raymond James Stadium on December 9, hosted by the Glazer Family Foundation, Raymond James Financial, Southern Ford Dealers and UnitedHealthcare. Through the drive, over 6,500 meals were collected and nearly $1,000 was donated to help the less fortunate during the holidays.
"We appreciate the opportunity to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers today to make a difference in the lives of our Florida neighbors and to ensure they have access to fresh, nutritious food," said T. David Lewis, CEO, UnitedHealthCare of Florida, Inc. Central North Florida Division. "Feeding America Tampa Bay provides a vital service to the people of West Central Florida, and we are grateful for the opportunity to partner with them in the fight against hunger."
The number of West Central Florida residents in need of food assistance has grown dramatically over the past three years to a current total of 700,000, and 250,000 of those living with hunger are children. In the past 12 months, Feeding America Tampa Bay has distributed more than 35 million pounds of food - enough to provide more than two million meals every month.
"It's always good to feel like you are making a difference and helping people out," said Foster. "Any time you can give back or help somebody else out, it's always a great feeling."