K Martin Gramatica brought a little early holiday cheer to the kids at the Children's Cancer Center
Every year, the holiday season seems to kick off earlier and earlier. The old standard for display of Christmas cheer, for instance, was the Friday after Thanksgiving; now you'll see lights and lawn displays as soon as the Halloween decorations come down.
And just when you thought that it couldn't start any sooner, Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Martin Gramatica, Tampa Bay Lightning center Brad Richards and Radio City Rockettes Jennifer Locane and Heather Oserczuk promptly broke out their holiday spirit on Tuesday, September 9. That dream team came together at the Children's Cancer Center on Tuesday to kick off the Center's Annual Holiday Card Campaign.
If Gramatica wasn't feeling good will towards man before his visit to the Center, he was when he left.
"It's great to see the smiles on the kids faces," said Gramatica. "What this program does for kids is unbelievable and it's great for us just to be here with them today."
The Children's Cancer Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing children who have cancer or chronic blood disorders, and their families, with the emotional, financial and educational support necessary to cope with their life-threatening illnesses.
The Holiday Card project is the largest fundraiser of the year for the Children's Cancer Center. It helps fund programs and services designed to educate children about their illnesses as well as provide financial assistance for emergencies.
"The cards raise about $100,000 a year and the reason that it is so special is because the children do it," said MaryAnn Massolio the Executive Director of the Children's Cancer Center. "We can do golf tournaments and all those kinds of things, but what makes this unique is that the children and their siblings actually make the product that we sell."
And so the holidays were underway Tuesday at the Children's Cancer Center. The tables were decked out in holiday green and red, with ornaments as centerpieces. The setting was even complete with Christmas cookies and the Santa's Helpers outfits on the Rockettes.
Gramatica and Richards provided some of the holiday gifts, passing out t-shirts and signing autographs for the kids and their parents, and the Rockettes taught everyone the intricacies of the high kicks that have made them famous.
Gramatica was a very popular visitor among both the children and the parents. He soon realized, however, that he had done them a big favor even before stopping by on Tuesday.
"They're all excited because they all got to stay up and watch the game last night," laughed Gramatica. "I think it was past everybody's bedtime.
"But it's great what this program does. It lets them forget about all the problems. Some of them have to go through a lot in hospitals and to be able to come here and play games is a nice way for them to get away."
In addition to kicking off the Holiday Card project, Tuesday was also used as reminder that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. That's particularly notable for Buccaneer fans, because the Bay area has one of highest incidents of youth cancer in the United States.
For more information about how you can support the Children's Cancer Center or purchase the Holiday Cards created by the children please call 1-800-226-1195 or visit the Center's web site.