Tampa Bay Sports Stars Score Big With Their Causes

Professional sports players from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Tampa Bay Rays are bringing cheer to less fortunate children and families in the Tampa Bay region by giving back during this holiday season. 

Many times, the public doesn't recognize what these athletes do outside of their professional sports. While you may not see the players, coaches and staff out and about every day, they are definitely here and making a difference in the surrounding communities. Through continuously supporting their foundations, businesses and causes, they are fulfilling holiday wish lists, feeding families and more.  

Tampa Bay Buccaneers players Ryan Sims, Adam Hayward and Will Allen are giving back to children for Christmas and raising awareness about cancer and education through their individual efforts. 

Sims, a Bucs defensive tackle and former standout player at the University of North Carolina, hosts his annual "Hope for the Holidays" fundraiser, which benefits the Children's Home and Bay Springs. Sims and some of his friends and teammates, including Will Allen,  recently purchased and hand-delivered gifts for foster children. 

"My mission is to bring a few smiles to their faces," says Sims. "No child should have to endure such hardships and if I am able to help ease some of their woes even for a brief moment, it is an honor to do so."

The Ryan Sims Foundation also supports cancer research through its 98 Ways to Fight Cancer Initiative, which raises awareness about prevention, treatment and survival of colon and other cancers.

Feeling Passionate About Giving

Teammate Adam Hayward is also dedicated to cancer awareness, particularly breast cancer.  In November, he was one of the hosts of the 1st Annual Pink Event in collaboration with HOO Enterprises and CALA Connection at the Westshore Yacht Club in Tampa.

"I lost my mom to breast cancer, so I am very passionate about breast cancer research and support," says Hayward. 

The event raises funds for breast cancer research and promises to be a must-attend event next year. 

Hayward also spreads holiday cheer with his Buccaneer team through the annual Buccaneers Day of Giving, where they surprise needy families with gifts, tickets and shopping sprees in the month of December. 

"I love kids and they are our future.  I have the ability to afford those things they dream of. It's a lot of fun for me," Hayward says. 

The Bucs linebacker and Portland State graduate also has participated as a Christmas caroler in St. Petersburg at All Children's Hospital and at the Westminster Palms retirement center.

Football players aren't the only ones doing their part. Members of the Lightning and the Rays are also stepping up to the plate. 

Spreading Cheer Across Tampa Bay

Rays Manager Joe Maddon hosts an annual "Thank-mas" event.  Maddon and his staff shop for groceries, cook and serve an Italian meal each year. The effort, which is intended to shine a light on the local homeless situation, has fed nearly 2,000 needy citizens since its inception.

This year, the "Thank-mas" food train stops at the Bradenton, St. Petersburg and Tampa Salvation Armies, in addition to the Sallie House in St. Petersburg.

The Tampa Bay Lightning has teamed up with the Marines Toys for Tots Foundation in an effort to help more children have a happy holiday. The players' wives and girlfriends collect toys at two designated Lightning home games in December.

In addition, Lightning player Vinny Lecavalier is working toward his $3 million pledge to All Children's Hospital. The money will go toward the construction of a cancer and blood disorder center, which will be named in his honor. Lecavalier has been with the Lightning for over a decade and recently accepted an 11-year extension on his contract, which will take him through season 2019-2020.

Keisha Pickett, owner of Pickett Public Relations Group and operator of an informational website called Black In The Bay, loves live music and comedy, and enjoys meeting positive, ambitious people. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.
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