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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs help out a (surprised) young mother in need



100316_AC_RoadToSuccess_0086(2) Kiara Walker had just finished talking a sociology exam at Hillsborough Community College when she noticed a crowd gathered outside the building, including a few people carrying television cameras.

She figured the commotion couldn't possibly have anything to do with her

"I looked outside and I was like, ‘Ooh, the news is here. Let me hide. I don't know how I look today'," the 21-year old said. "I mind my business. I come to school and then I leave."

She could not have been more wrong.

Upon exiting the building, Walker encountered a couple of friends and family members and then was greeted by Bucs coach Raheem Morris who was holding the keys to a brand-new 2010 Ford Focus.

It was the culmination of the team's so-called Road to Success Program, one through which the team selected a nominee from the community who had experienced hardships and was in great need of a vehicle.

Walker fit the bill. She has a six-month old daughter, Kaylen, who was born with an irregular heartbeat and must see a heart specialist from time to time. She has a diabetic mother who is unable to drive and must see doctors frequently. She has work, school and all of life's various challenges.

And until recently, Walker accomplished the majority of it through using public transportation or an occasional ride from a friend. Last month, Walker was able to save enough to purchase a vehicle, but that 1996 Cavalier has spent about as much time in the shop as it has on the road. Walker had to leave it at home today and ride to school with a friend because the car was inoperable.

100316_AC_RoadToSuccess_2 "It breaks down -- a lot," she said. "I've actually gotten stuck in the parking lot (at school) twice."

At those times, it's back on the public bus, which can mean an hour-long commute -- and a walk in the elements -- that would take about 15 minutes in her own car.

The team asked friends or family to nominate candidates, but Walker took the liberty of nominating herself. It was a savvy move, because her impassioned letter to the team made a significant impression on Morris, the Glazer family and the community relations department, all of which helped settle on Walker as the winner. The team also is supplying gas for one year and insurance coverage for six months.

"This is why you do this stuff," Morris said, as Walker posed for pictures in the driver's seat with her daughter. "The reason why is right there. So she can have the ability to take care of her daughter and get her heart murmur checked on, and to get through all the stuff she’s been through.

"She’s perfect. We had a bunch of great applicants, but you have to pick one. We were excited to have the opportunity to be able to do something real nice for somebody."

The gift is a much-needed break for a young lady who hasn't had many. Born to a drug-addicted mother and a father who later went to prison for murder, she had no parental support from birth. She and her father first met when she was 15. The uncle who took her in died when she was 3-years old. An aunt and other family members continued raising her, but conditions were never ideal. She has worked since age 15 and during high school lived in a four-bedroom home with 10 others.

What she lacked in privilege she makes up for with perspective. She's always volunteered because she believes there are always some less fortunate than she. And she has lofty goals, with hopes of one day opening a drug treatment center that can help drug abusers like her mother once was.

"I've always had a lot of faith," she said. "You have see outside your current situation and that you can make it in life. I go through things like everybody else. You just have to take it all in stride and focus on your goals."

[Photos courtesy of Tampa Bay Buccaneers. . . Bottom photo from L-R: FB Chris Pressley, coach Raheem Morris, Kiara Walker holding daughter, Kaylen.]

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 3:57pm]


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