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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Turkey Day

Thanksgiving came early for hundreds of Bay area families on Tuesday thanks to the meal distribution programs of Keenan McCardell and Shaun King, plus other Buc volunteer work


WR Keenan McCardell donated 87 turkeys to Bay area families on Tuesday, and he's got another special event planned for Thanksgiving Day

Keenan McCardell, the receiver coveted by Jon Gruden and signed by Tampa Bay in June, has given Gruden's Buccaneers exactly what they expected on the field. As an unexpected bonus, McCardell has also made an instant impact in the Bay area community.

The former Jacksonville Jaguar's 36 receptions for 433 yards and three touchdowns have helped round out a Buccaneer passing game that used to be somewhat one-dimensional. On Tuesday, however, McCardell was busy giving instead of receiving.

McCardell, who wears jersey number 87, spent Tuesday morning delivering 87 turkeys to churches, shelters and homeless centers all over Tampa. Among his stops were the Church Without Walls, Living Faith Church, Abundant Life, Tampa Crossroads for Women, Dorcas House, Baylife Safe Place and the Alpha House.

"I like to make sure everybody is having a great holiday," said McCardell. "It's the start of the holidays and I want to have smiles on people's faces during the holidays. It makes it a lot easier to get through the holidays when you're smiling and you have something you can look forward to."

To that end, McCardell provided Tuesday's gift recipients with the opportunity to have traditional Thanksgiving meals with their families.

"I think it's fabulous that he gives out the turkeys," said Albert Beckman of Abundant Life. "There are so many times in life when people can go out and do things and play sports and not give back to the communities they live in and play in, but to come back and give to those in need is a great blessing."

McCardell is simply trying to do his part to make Tampa a better place to live.

"I want people to have a great Thanksgiving," said McCardell. "I know that a lot of people aren't fortunate enough to have a turkey dinner and hopefully what I'm doing will help out a little bit. I know there are a lot more people out there that probably won't have a Thanksgiving dinner, but I want to just go out and be able help somebody."

McCardell's generosity won't stop with Tuesday's 87 turkeys. He and his family have a special event planned for Thanksgiving Day, when they will have Thanksgiving dinner with 50 of Tampa's homeless.

"I am hosting some families on Thanksgiving Day at Pipos Restaurant on Davis Island," said McCardell. "The owner over there, Danny Martinez, he's helping out. We're going to have some fun and bring some smiles to people's faces. My family is going to be there and we're just going to enjoy Thanksgiving."

More Bucs in the Community

With McCardell busy at several shelters and centers across Tampa, Buccaneers FB Darian Barnes, T Lomas Brown, TE Casey Crawford, Crawford's wife Michele, LB Ryan Nece, S Jermaine Phillips and LB Justin Smith helped package food baskets at the Metropolitan Ministries Food Tent.

Each Buccaneer manned a different station on the food packaging line, ensuring that each of the food baskets contained green beans, potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, canned fruit, stuffing, crackers and cereal. A turkey was added as the recipients picked up their packages.

"I've been blessed and I felt this was an opportunity for me to give back," said Smith. "The community has given me so much in just my short time here that this is the least we could do."

Tuesday's work at Metropolitan Ministries might have felt like a small thing to Smith and company, but food tent volunteers are critical at this time of year.

"We couldn't do it with out the volunteers," said Christine Long of Metropolitan Ministries. "They're incredible and with the pounds of food we get and the people we have picking up and dropping off food, we need volunteers to make it all work."

And it did work, with the help of the Buccaneers for several hours, along with many other volunteers from the community. Packing food, moving crates and distributing the food, the players showed the same type of teamwork they use to succeed on the field.

"We were real excited to come out here this afternoon and give something back to the community," said Crawford. "They've done such an amazing job of supporting us, we just wanted to do something to help them."

King Remembers His Roots

As the afternoon wound to a close, with McCardell finishing his final deliveries and his teammates packing a last few food boxes, QB Shaun King was just getting ready to kick off his Thanksgiving meal donation.

With his mom, grandmother and younger brother, Cedric, lending helping hands, King distributed 100 Thanksgiving meals to the Gibbs Junior Gladiators Football program.

Each of the meals included a Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green beans, corn, assorted fresh fruit, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, apple juice and a fresh baked pumpkin pie.

Passing out the meals on the field on which the Gladiators play, the Buccaneer quarterback shook hands, signed autographs and joked with old friends, before making sure each of the families in attendance went home with a meal fit for a king.

"It means a lot," said King about helping out his old neighborhood. "I went to Gibbs, so I know a lot of the families and it means a lot to be able to help them out. We've been blessed from above."

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