The dining room at One Buccaneer Place is quieter than usual most Tuesdays during the season, with the players enjoying a day off and the coaches upstairs working on game plans.
That was true through most of this particular Tuesday, too, although the room did have a slightly different look than usual. Evenly spaced along three of the room’s walls, about four feet high, was a series of simple white pieces of paper, each one displaying the name and age of a child. Sitting quietly beneath each piece of paper was a promising pile of presents.
That all changed at 3:15 p.m., when the doors of the dining room were thrown open and approximately 80 “angels” rushed in, and suddenly the room was a beehive of happy activity. These “angels” were the namesakes from the row of papers on the walls, each one a local child who needed some outside help to have a happy holiday season.
This was the Buccaneers’ own internal “Angel Tree” program, an annual event in which staff members pair up with underprivileged children to provide them with gifts selected from wish lists submitted a month earlier. The 2012 Angel Tree program was the team’s biggest yet, and this time it included contributions from the entire organization – coaches, players, cheerleaders and staff members on both the football and business sides of the operation. Notable Angel Tree sponsors included General Manager Mark Dominik, players Andrew Economos and Vincent Jackson and their wives and several assistant coaches. Vincent and Lindsey Jackson sponsored more than 20 children for the event, and Lindsey was on hand Tuesday to help the kids tear into their packages.
The angels ranged in age from 18 months to 17 years old, and they all had a great time interacting with their new friends at One Buc Place. Some of the older kids even brought along footballs and other items and were able to get a handful of memorable autographs. For the most part, however, the scene was much like a Christmas morning, with children delighting in what they discovered behind the wrapping paper and adults happily indulging their desires to begin immediately playing with their new toys. Several of the corners of the dining room quickly turned into play areas, with dollhouses and the like unfolded for instant use.
The Buccaneers teamed with Camelot Community Care to identify children who could benefit from the program. All of the boys and girls who participated in the Angel Tree event are currently living with foster families.