On Christmas, Bucs trade helmets for handouts - FOX 13 News

On Christmas, Bucs trade helmets for handouts

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

From footballs to soccer balls to basketballs and baseball bats, it was a kids' collection of Christmas joy for children in need of a holiday boost.

Backed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Tampa Bay Sports Commission and Rob Elder Automotive, Replay Tampa Bay brought smiles to young faces this Christmas.

It's an annual charity drive of new and gently used sporting goods.

Buccaneer rookies Keith Tandy, Jonthan Banks and William Gholston got to play Santa Claus this year, sharing the reason for the season with kids from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Police Athletic League.

"It's Christmas; everyone needs a smile," Banks said. "Getting out here and playing with these kids, it means a lot. I've got a son of my own. I know when I get to play with him away from football, I know how much it means to him. It's just some of these kids don't have a lot. Just getting out here, being around here, making them smile. It really has a special place in my heart."

This really hit home for Gholston who knows firsthand what this really means.

"It's a great feeling," he said. "It feels good to give back to the community, especially for an organization like this, PAL, because I grew up in PAL. Back up north in Michigan. So it's fun to see all of the kids having fun, playing with the toys. Their faces lit up when they got the gifts, so it's great."

It's giving back, getting involved and feeling like a kid again. The best part for the Bucs?

"Getting to play with them," Keith Tandy said. "Would be surprised how far some of these little kids can throw the football."

"Some of these kids, this is all they have," Banks said. "It's just big. It means a lot to me to come out here and help out."

The Bucs handed out just a portion of the thousands of gifts collected, and the drive doesn't end on Christmas. It will continue.

"We are going to run it through the end of the month," said Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. "We'll kick back up in the spring, but from now through the end of the month of December, you can drop off a sporting good at Elder Automotive."

"We'd love to be able to continue to pass on that holiday cheer to kids, who could really use it," he continued.

Their reaction said it all.

"Merry Christmas!" cheered the kids, as the Bucs said goodbye.

It's a gift that will last a lifetime.

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