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Rays, Helios Foundation to give $1 million for college scholarships

ST. PETERSBURG — Every time the Rays hit a double for the next five seasons, a new partnership pledges to give $1,200 toward two-year Florida college scholarships.

Half of the money will come from the Rays Baseball Foundation, and the other half will come from the Helios Education Foundation, adding up to $1 million, or about $200,000 a year.

"We're really excited. It's going to help a lot of kids," said Helios chairman Vince Roig on Wednesday morning during a gathering at Tropicana Field.

In the first year, the money will provide 45 scholarships to students in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Sarasota, Manatee and Pasco counties who participate in Take Stock in Children, a nonprofit statewide program created in 1995. The following years will provide at least the same number, possibly more, officials said.

The new initiative is called Doubling Up for Education.

"We're going to keep a close eye on the stats," Roig said during the morning gathering, pausing to chuckles from the group, "because this is one time we don't mind seeing double."

Last year, the Rays hit 273 doubles. That would mean $327,600 a season — more than $125,000 beyond the amount pledged. The previous year, they hit 295. That would mean $354,000.

But don't get too hung up on the numbers. It's more of a gimmick to create awareness.

The two foundations already have pledged $1 million, regardless of how many doubles are hit.

The partnership is aimed at giving low-income and high-risk students financial resources and mentoring for any Florida college.

"We wanted to create a program to provide significant college resources to children throughout our region while also providing the necessary support to help those children have success during their middle and high school years," said Rays owner Stuart Sternberg.

Take Stock in Children aims to provide assistance for low-income and at-risk students, including many from minority families. It offers college scholarships and mentorships beginning in middle school and continuing on through high school and the transition into college.

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8804.

Rays, Helios Foundation to give $1 million for college scholarships 05/23/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 9:30pm]
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