Game Changer: Super Bowl LV inspires community changeTampa Host Committee launches systemic justice initiatives under Forever 55

Hometown change is in the projected playbook long after the last 2021 touchdown. Three initiatives introduced by the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee under its Forever 55 Legacy Program’s Systemic Justice pillar stand to open discourse regarding racial inequity and inspire lasting local improvement. Forever 55 aims to leave a social legacy in Tampa Bay and encompasses six total focus pillars.

“We want to make sure that Tampa Bay is informed of the social impact and legacy that hosting an event of this magnitude leaves on the community,” says Claire Lessinger, chief operating officer of the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee.

The Host Committee raised $1 million in funding for Forever 55; the NFL matched that investment with an additional $1 million. Strategic partners have been added for oversight, dollar distribution management, NFL liaises, and microgrant program development. In short, anyone who believes the local impact of the Super Bowl ends February 7 as the clock ticks down to zero is mistaken. 

First on the field: A six-part series comprised of comprehensive programs regarding community policing, financial literacy, and transformative community conversations. Those conversations will happen amidst Huddle for Change, a partnership between the Host Committee, NFL Inspire Change, Community Tampa Bay, and the University of South Florida. Community members and local leaders are encouraged to join in a dialogue centered around the wealth gap, mental health, physical wellbeing, community policing, and education. The goal is to spark change at a local level.

A robust Financial Literacy Program comprises another part of the initiative. Twenty families from Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties have been identified by healthcare partners Tampa General Hospital and Advent Health; these moderate-income households will receive financial coaching regarding subjects such as budgeting and savings strategies. Healthy Start, a non-profit maternal and child health organization, has been tapped to manage the intake process and help participants through the program.

“We anticipate the pilot being a huge success,” Lessinger says. “One of our central goals was to ensure that the network of services and care developed by these uniting agencies created a sustainable framework for the future, allowing us to leave an everlasting impact on these children, families, and our community.”

Trust and collaboration are the aims of the Community Policing initiative, which looks to build trust and improve communication between Bay Area youth and the law enforcement community. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Derrick Brooks’ nonprofit organization, Derrick Brooks Charities, is set to host Community-Police Relationship (CPR) events. And there’s more to come.

“The $2 million investment is spread across the six pillars that represent our community’s greatest needs: early childhood education, food insecurity, families, health and wellness, sustainability and systemic justice,” Lessinger says. “Over 35 beneficiaries and strategic partners will benefit from the legacy grant and help ensure its everlasting impact.”

Another example of the initiative's impact is the Forever 55 Youth Garden; the NFL donated $10,000 for its creation. Located at the Oaks at Riverview, the garden will provide hours of wholesome youth activity and nutritious food for families.

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Read more articles by Amy Hammond.

Amy Hammond is a freelance writer and author of children’s books that encourage the next generation to attend college. When not indoctrinating youth about the necessity of higher education, she enjoys exploring the paradise that is her St. Petersburg home. She holds a degree in Public Relations from the University of Florida and a Masters in Secondary English Education from the University of South Florida. Her work has appeared in such venues as the Tampa Bay Times. Children’s Book Titles by Amy Hammond include: When I Grow Up, I’ll Be a Gator; When I Grow Up, I’ll Be a ‘Nole; When I Grow Up, I’ll Be a Bull; When I Grow Up, I’m Bama Bound; When I Grow Up, I’ll Be a Tiger.