Saturday, September 22, 2018
News Roundup

Hooper: Kids get a sweet visit from WWE pros


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.

USF’s Kitija Laksa begins play in FIBA Women’s World Cup

USF’s Kitija Laksa begins play in FIBA Women’s World Cup

Before resuming her assault on USF's record books, Kitija Laksa will try to make history with her homeland.A native of Riga, Latvia, Laksa begins play with her native country this morning in the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup in Spain.Latvia is ma...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Football: Clearwater 34, Mitchell 7

Football: Clearwater 34, Mitchell 7

TRINITY — What at first looked like a defensive stalemate between Clearwater and Mitchell quickly turned into a rout.Clearwater had revenge on its mind Friday night after a 45-28 loss to Mitchell last year during the the regular seaso...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Football: Tampa Bay Tech 28, Hillsborough 27

Football: Tampa Bay Tech 28, Hillsborough 27

TAMPA — The decision was made as soon as Hillsborough got the ball back. Trailing by a touchdown with just over four minutes remaining against Tampa Bay Tech, the Terriers had the ball on their own 6-yard line.They hadn't been able to move the ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Football: Largo 35, Countryside 0

Football: Largo 35, Countryside 0

LARGO — The offense was relentless and merciless Friday night, but that has been the case a lot recently. Largo is scoring points in bunches and getting contributions from everyone. Add in a defense that has been smothering, as well as a special team...
Updated: 8 hours ago
How do you explain active shooters to a first-grader? For educators, school safety is a ‘work in progress.’

How do you explain active shooters to a first-grader? For educators, school safety is a ‘work in progress.’

Active assailant. Run-hide-fight. Barricade the classroom. The language of preventing a shooting like the one this year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is often filled with terms that can stir up fear in students, often out of necessity.But f...
Published: 09/22/18
Rays bounce back big after a debacle

Rays bounce back big after a debacle

TORONTO — The way the Rays played Friday — all nine innings, lesson learned — in beating the Jays 11-3 provided the best answer on how, or even if, they could rebound from the crushing loss the night before that all but ended their ...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Football: Sickles 7, Freedom 3

TAMPA — Sickles needed a goal-line stand late in the fourth quarter to escape Freedom 7-3 on Homecoming and remain in the hunt for a Class 7A, District 8 title.Gryphons coach Patrick Murphy knew that facing the Patriots would be a battle. Freedom (1-...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Football: Armwood 24, Jefferson 14

SEFFNER — Armwood is becoming accustomed to winning close games.The Hawks fended off visiting Jefferson 24-14 in a defensive battle that featured a plethora of holding penalties in the second half.Armwood (3-1) earned two rushing touchdowns from juni...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Football: Plant 44, Gaither 34

TAMPA — Seventy-eight points. Eight hundred and 40 yards in total offense. Five players surpassing the century mark in yardage.When the game was over Friday, Plant had the edge in every category — including the scoreboard as the Panthers (3-1) opened...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Football: Robinson 28, Blake 25

TAMPA — Nevermind that Blake scored a go-ahead touchdown with 87 seconds left in the game.Forgive him, but part of Robinson junior Lateef Al-Shaa’ir was hoping it would happen just so it would set up a comeback.And it did.With 24 seconds left in the ...
Updated: 9 hours ago