LB Shelton Quarles understands the courage it often takes to choose to compete
As most of the world prepares to compete in the upcoming Olympic Games in Greece, one Tampa group recently conducted its own unique athletic competition. On Wednesday, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Shelton Quarles and Corey Ivy were on hand to help celebrate the culmination of the 25th Annual Murphey Awards.
Wednesday night's event was held at The Children's Home, site of the games originally conceived in 1980 with the help of then-Buccaneer coaches John McKay and Wayne Fontes. As was intended a quarter-century ago and is still true today, the Murphey Awards serve to foster self-discipline, healthy competition and sportsmanship among the residents at the home.
The Murphey Awards are the longest-standing tradition at The Children's Home, which has been helping at-risk children in the Tampa Bay community for over 110 years.
"It's an Olympic-type ceremony where the kids compete in 12 events," said Recreation Director Trudy Bihm. "We have a huge barbeque for the opening ceremony, and the awards ceremony is the closing. The Buccaneers have an opportunity to meet the kids and present them with their awards."
That welcome opportunity fell to Quarles and Ivy this summer. Quarles, annually one of the team's most community-minded players, was impressed with the spirit and fortitude of the Murphey Award competitors.
"Everybody has to have courage to get to where they want to go in life," Quarles said. "For us to play football on a regular basis, we have to have courage to step out on the field. It's so courageous of these kids, coming from where they've come from, to get to the point where they are now and win awards."
Children who chose to compete in the Murphey Awards were put into nine divisions based on age and gender. The residents then tested their skills in a variety of events ranging from push-up and sit-up competitions to swim races. The Murphey Awards do not honor only the winners of the individual events. Rather, they aim to recognize those children who personified The Children's Home motto – "The Courage to Try."
After Master of Ceremonies Marshall Schroeder opened Wednesday's ceremony, Quarles and Ivy helped present the children with their individual awards. The Buccaneer duo offered congratulations to each competitor and posed for pictures. On one occasion, a competitor was too shy to go up on stage despite the overwhelming encouragement of his peers. Ivy brought the award down to him, adding a personal touch to what was already a meaningful moment for the child.
"These awards mean the world to them," Ivy said. "I just enjoy coming out and seeing them achieve. It shows that hard work does pay off. All these kids are winners in my eyes. Just coming out and seeing the smiles on the kids' faces whether or not they get an award – they're all winners. Hopefully they'll strive to be successful in whatever they choose to do."
Ultimately, the ceremony proved to be equally rewarding for both the competitors and the Buccaneer players.
"Some of the Buccaneers are mentors and motivators for the kids," Bihm said. "The kids' faces were enlightened by the players being here. The kids absolutely love seeing the players."