Now an annual tradition, the Buccaneers’ “D-Line Does Christmas” shocked 30 families that are hard on their luck this season with surprise gifts, a shopping spree and more, just in time for the holidays. Led by defensive tackle
Lured to the One Buccaneer Place under the guise of a behind-the-scenes tour, the families – selected through United Way Suncoast agencies – were already excited about the unique opportunity to see their local NFL team’s headquarters. More than 80 children and their parents filled the large seats usually occupied by players and received a warm welcome from Buccaneers Cheerleader alumna Kimberly Kolinski. The evening took a sudden turn, however, when Kolinski was interrupted by Captain Fear, followed by a surprise appearance by McCoy, who revealed that the visitors would receive much more than a tour.
As the stage quickly filled with McCoy’s teammates, the defensive tackle explained to the audience that they would be the recipients of five surprises. As cheers filled the room, silver platters with gifts cards soon followed, as the Buccaneer group handed out the first two presents – gifts cards to Hess and Publix Super Markets – providing each family with the resources to purchase gas and food over the holiday season.
The third surprise was soon to follow: a round of gift bags containing various children’s games and supplies for the families – before everyone was encouraged to exit the auditorium doors and follow the players and cheerleaders down the hallway. After stops to see the team dining room and the players’ lounge, the families gathered alongside the practice fields, where it was explained that surprise No. four awaited just around the corner.
At McCoy’s signal, the children sprinted down the facility’s breezeway, separating the main building from the weightlifting facilities, where a bicycle specially-marked for each child awaited them.
“It’s great, making all these families happy, making these young kids happy,” said Spence a rookie defensive tackle. “A lot of them don’t have bikes. Just for every one of them to get a bike, just get gift cards and stuff, just to give back, it feels great.”
For Katrina Gladis, a mother of three, the surprises were overwhelming.
“It was like one thing after another was checked off the list,” said Gladis. “Okay, don’t have to worry about the gas; okay, don’t have to worry about the food. The kids each have a bike so I don’t have to worry about that. We’re truly blessed.”
As the sun began to set over the Buccaneers practice fields, the smiles throughout One Buccaneer Place were bright enough to light up the stadium. For many, the laughter was mixed in with tears of happiness.
“This means everything to me,” said Shirley Porter, a native of Tampa. “Oh my God, I am overwhelmed. I’ve got five boys, I’m a single parent, and I have to take care of them by myself, so it means the world to me to get this kind of help. I really wasn’t expecting this.”
With many still in shock from the four gifts they had received, the families were unprepared for what was still in store.
As McCoy attempted to quiet the crowd, three large coach buses pulled up behind them as he announced their last surprise of the evening: a $250 shopping spree with the players, cheerleaders and staff at a local retail store.
“We have entirely too many blessings to not give back,” said McCoy. “Us as a unit, as a D-line, we want to take care of somebody else and make somebody else’s Christmas, and that’s what this is all about.”
Though many families were at a loss for words when exiting the checkout line more than an hour later, it was evident how thankful the families were for the efforts of the Buccaneers players, cheerleaders and staff.
“God bless you all and thank you so much for all you’ve done for me and my five boys,” said Porter. “I just hope all the Buccaneers have a Merry Christmas.”