Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Springstead High alumni kick off run to Orlando to help needy kids

TAMPA — A year ago, Brandon Bessette was running mostly on a whim.

As an organizer of an event to raise money for needy kids at a Tampa elementary school, he simply laced up his running shoes and took off on a 124-mile trek between the University of South Florida in Tampa and the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

Little did he know how tough it would be, even for a healthy 22-year-old with a fair amount of running experience. By the end of his first day of traversing the 30 miles of back roads, he was whipped.

"I admit, I had thoughts about backing out," Bessette recalled Thursday. "I really didn't think I was going be able to make it."

With rest, Bessette managed to renew his spirits and continued the journey to its conclusion.

The fundraising effort paid off and he was able to collect nearly $5,000 worth of school supplies, including 300 backpacks, that were given out to kids at Shaw Elementary School in Tampa.

For the USF accounting student and 2004 graduate of Springstead High School in Hernando County, the charity run begins anew tonight when he and former Springstead High classmates Jon Doyle, Matthew Carroll, Matt Haskadekes and Brandon Arigoni take to the road to repeat the run.

With a support crew on bicycles to carry food and sports drinks, they'll be running mostly on two-lane roads at night to avoid both traffic and blistering daytime heat. With luck, the team will make the Orlando destination sometime Sunday morning.

Bessette said he learned a lot from last year's run.

"Last time, we put the whole thing together in about 3 1/2 weeks, and it wasn't enough," he said. "This time, the idea is not to get worn out so fast."

Bessette, a Big Brother for a student who attends Shaw Elementary, said his motivation to help came as a result of seeing the poverty that shrouds many of the students at the school.

Nearly 96 percent of the students are on free or reduced-price lunches, and many kids come from families that struggle to provide basic needs such as clothing and shoes. School supplies are often very low on the list.

"I just felt like I could do something,'' he said, "something that might be more meaningful to people than to just give money."

In January 2008, Bessette and a group of friends started "100 Miles For a Needy Child" on Facebook and began seeking donations of backpacks filled with school supplies.

An employee at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa collected eight backpacks. Bessette's boss at Health Care Parking Systems of America, a valet and guest service company, came up with a per-mile sponsorship and other donations.

Bessette said the grass roots effort has picked up steam recently. So far, he has enlisted several Hernando sponsors, including Hooters and Perkins restaurants and Cortez Bank. With other donations he hopes to double the take of donated supplies to include two elementary schools in Hernando and Orange counties as well as Shaw Elementary in Hillsborough.

Although he realizes his impending graduation from USF may mean he'll have to move to find work, Bessette says he and his friends are hoping their charity run will inspire others to follow.

"The need will never go away," he said. "All it takes is someone willing to answer that need."

Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or 848-1435.

Fast facts

Help needy kids

Anyone wishing to contribute to the fundraiser can contact Brandon Bessette at [email protected] or call (352) 200-9937.

Springstead High alumni kick off run to Orlando to help needy kids 07/30/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 30, 2009 7:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump plans to release JFK assassination documents


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Saturday morning that he planned to release the tens of thousands of never-before-seen documents left in the files related to President John F. Kennedy's assassination held by the National Archives and Records Administration.

    FILE - In this Nov. 22, 1963 file photo, President John F. Kennedy waves from his car in a motorcade in Dallas. Riding with Kennedy are First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, right, Nellie Connally, second from left, and her husband, Texas Gov. John Connally, far left.  President Donald Trump, on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017,  says he plans to release thousands of never-seen government documents related to President John F. Kennedy's assassination.  (AP Photo/Jim Altgens, File) NY107
  2. Water leak slows traffic in Westshore area

    Public Safety

    TAMPA –– A broken water main has closed the westbound lane of West Cypress Street between North Westshore Boulevard and North Ward Street. The city estimates the repairs will be completed by 7 a.m. on Sunday.

  3. Fox renewed O'Reilly contract despite knowing of allegations


    NEW YORK (AP) — The Fox News Channel says the company knew a news analyst planned to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill O'Reilly when it renewed the popular personality's contract in February.

    Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly appears on the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," in New York. O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News Channel in April following reports that several women had been paid millions of dollars to keep quiet about harassment allegations. [Associated Press file]
  4. Conviction overturned 30 years later in neo-Nazi murder case


    TAMPA — A judge on Friday overturned the murder conviction of Dean McKee now that new evidence has raised doubt about McKee's guilt in a Tampa slaying that occurred nearly three decades ago when he was 16.

    In 1987, a St. Petersburg Times reporter interviewed Dean McKee for a story about young skinheads in Tampa. [Times | 1987]
  5. Experts have some theories on who's carrying out Seminole Heights killings


    The words serial killer tend to conjure an image of a middle-aged white man, likely a loner. He stabs or chokes or strangles, murdering up close for the thrill, straight out of central casting.

    A memorial was set up where Anthony Naiboa, 20, was found shot to death in Seminole Heights. Some experts who have reviewed information in the case say that whoever is behind the three Seminole Heights killings may live in the area. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]