Bucs rookie T Kenyatta Walker (left) was a much more experienced gift wrapper when he left the Foster Angels center on Thursday
He arrived right on time, just like Santa Claus, not to a plate of cookies but a room packed with people. Santa may like to get in and out undetected, but Kenyatta Walker, looking jolly thanks to the big grin that swept across his face, had a lot of people he wanted to meet.
On Thursday, December 20, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie tackle headed to the Foster Angels Distribution Center to help distribute gifts to the parents of foster children in Hillsborough County.
The visit was the second part to Walker's involvement with the Foster Angels program. Earlier this month, Walker came to the rescue of hundreds of foster children by donating $8,000 to the program. Walker decided to donate the money after hearing about the unfortunate events of November 13, when the Foster Angels' storage facility was robbed of $15,000 worth of gifts.
Shortly after his arrival on Thursday, Walker became the biggest volunteer for Mac MacNeel, the founder and executive director of the Foster Angels.
Walker began by grabbing the wish list of a 13 month-old girl and, with the help of volunteer Claire Warren, filling a bag with what he could find on the distribution center floor. He packed in a Blues Clues keyboard, a baby doll and stroller gift set, a Barney doll and a Tickle-Me Elmo.
"It's great to be able to come out here and see how everything works," said Walker. "I just wanted to get my hands dirty and do all that I could to help."
After sorting through the warehouse floor for gifts, Walker moved to the next step in the process - wrapping the presents. As one might expect from a 6-6, 300-pound offensive lineman, the intricacies of gift-wrapping weren't exactly his specialty. But he persevered and slowly mastered the art.
Choosing and wrapping gifts weren't the only things that the Foster Angels had in store for the Bucs' rookie. Walker also helped unload the truck of newly delivered toys. As volunteers tossed him boxes, Walker showed that while linemen may not have the speed of wide receivers, some still have soft hands. Catching the packages and gently placing them on the floor, Walker protected the new gifts like he was defending quarterback Brad Johnson.
Following the unloading of the new delivery, Walker helped bring wrapped gifts out to the foster parents who were seeing the benefits of his generosity. As he slung the bag of toys over his shoulder and carried them out to the car, Walker actually looked like a modern-day Santa Claus. Placing the gifts in the trunk of a most appreciate set of foster parents' car, he wished them a Merry Christmas and received a hug in appreciation of his efforts.
Buzzing about his various projects, Walker also took the time to meet and thank the volunteers at the distribution center.
"I came out here to show my support for the people who are working behind the scenes," said Walker. "I also love to see the faces on the foster parents when they come to pick up the gifts. That look makes this all worthwhile."
The volunteers who were working at the distribution center agreed with their new Buc friend.
"His being out here shows the foster kids that someone does care," said Tim Warren. "With his help we can give the kids a memorable Christmas, which is something they may not have had otherwise."
After a long day's work, the volunteers presented Walker with a Foster Angels t-shirt and he posed for a photo with Mac MacNeel.
As the photo was being taken a volunteer in the crowd shouted, "You're officially an Angel now!"
That's something with which the foster children of Hillsborough County would most definitely agree.