Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hooper: Kids get a sweet visit from WWE pros

WWE wrestlers Titus O'Neil and Sheamus   present  certificates to Stephanie Hamilton and Da'nae Turner of the Wilbert Davis Belmont Heights Boys & Girls Club on July 28 at the headquarters of PDQ in Tampa. Where Love Grows founder Vicki Anzalone, who guided the kids, looks on from the right. Stephanie and Da'nae beat out three other Boys & Girls Club teams to take first in a milkshake contest. Their original recipe, Tango Mango, will be sold at PDQ restaurants this year and proceeds will go to the Boys & Girls Club of Tampa Bay. [ Boys & Girls Club of Tampa Bay]

WWE wrestlers Titus O'Neil and Sheamus present certificates to Stephanie Hamilton and Da'nae Turner of the Wilbert Davis Belmont Heights Boys & Girls Club on July 28 at the headquarters of PDQ in Tampa. Where Love Grows founder Vicki Anzalone, who guided the kids, looks on from the right. Stephanie and Da'nae beat out three other Boys & Girls Club teams to take first in a milkshake contest. Their original recipe, Tango Mango, will be sold at PDQ restaurants this year and proceeds will go to the Boys & Girls Club of Tampa Bay. [ Boys & Girls Club of Tampa Bay]

TAMPA

Eighteen kids from the Wilbert Davis Belmont Heights Boys & Girls Club — divided into four teams — entered the Tampa headquarters of PDQ restaurants to determine who crafts the best milk shake.

At stake: the opportunity to have one of their very own creations placed on the PDQ menu.

Each team paraded its shakes before four judges: WWE wrestlers Titus O'Neil and Sheamus, radio personality Corey Dylan, PDQ principal owner Bob Basham, and yours truly.

The best moment for me came as I sampled — sampled being a relative term — each of the shakes.

The best moment for the kids, however, came after the tasting. O'Neil, 39, and Sheamus, 38, offered the group sage advice about appreciating the time and love that people had invested in them.

With humor and humility, the men shared stories about their own struggles.

O'Neil, who promised the kids this wouldn't be the last time they saw him, spoke of a tough upbringing. Sheamus told of the challenges of coming from Ireland as a struggling immigrant.

And just like that, the pair turned a milk shake exercise into a sweeter treat about what it takes to succeed in life. It's a fairly common occurrence for O'Neil, a University of Florida graduate and former Gator football player.

He also has a program with the Hillsborough school district, Champions of Character, which celebrates those who exhibit respect, responsibility and integrity. And he teaches a class at the Academy Prep Center of Tampa.

Did the athletes' message resonate with the kids? Their rapt attention spoke volumes.

"I am sure they took to heart what Titus shared," said Vicki Anzalone, who has worked with the kids all summer. "They can sense when someone really cares and he made that clear."

Anzalone is the founder and head of Where Love Grows, a grass-roots nonprofit that addresses issues of food insecurity among children. She's taken the kids through a summer cooking class series, teaching lessons about how to prepare low-cost, healthy meals at home instead of settling for fast-food options or snack-filled binging.

When I asked if she had any culinary training, she smiled a big smile and simply said, "I'm Italian."

The statement says so much about what drew Anzalone to start the nonprofit in 2013. When she discovered 28 percent of the children in this community live with food insecurity, she didn't point fingers at parents or guardians enduring their own struggles. She didn't assign blame to political leaders or entitlement programs or some other societal challenge. She didn't question her own ability to make a difference.

She just went to work, starting with monthly family dinners for kids. Where Love Grows continues to serve 300 meals a month to kids, and the cooking classes are a natural extension that have grown in popularity since being launched two years ago.

Her reward comes from the kids. Of the group at Wilbert Davis, several have offered to return and help guide the next cooking class.

"It validated this journey more than I could explain," said Anzalone, 56. "We are on the right path regardless of challenges, mainly financial.

"The responses and overflowing love and appreciation from the children we serve fuels me and Where Love Grows. Its a priceless intangible that lasts well beyond our dinners or cooking classes."

Anzalone's efforts are a testimony to what happens when people go beyond storing treasure for themselves and become rich in what really matters.

On this particularly day, what mattered most to Da'nae Turner and Stephanie Hamilton was a fruity concoction they dubbed the Tango Mango milk shake.

While all the teams offered flavorful shakes, Turner and Hamilton zigged where everybody else zagged, moving away from chocolate-caramel- based efforts to something chocked full of real fruit.

They won the contest, and later this year Tango Mango will be sold at PDQ with 100 percent of the proceeds going back to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay.

For all the kids, there may come another time when they reach a crossroads and will have the choice to zig or zag.

As they stand at the intersection of smart decisions and life-altering mistakes, maybe they will see Anzalone's smiling face, or hear Sheamus' words or sense O'Neil's genuine compassion.

That might just be the moment where these folks who gave of their time and love get a real return on their investment.

That's all I'm saying.

Hooper: Kids get a sweet visit from WWE pros 08/05/16 [Last modified: Saturday, August 6, 2016 7:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald team up to cool down the Clearwater Jazz Holiday

    Blogs

    A cool breeze swept through Coachman Park Saturday night. Couple of them, actually.

    Kenny Loggins performed at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 21, 2017.
  2. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start

    College

    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  3. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy

    World

    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  5. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)

    Nation

    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102