City of Tampa Black History Gala
Actor-activist Danny Glover brought fans to their feet when he addressed guests at the city of Tampa employees' Black History Committee's 25th anniversary Scholarship Gala. Known for roles in Dreamgirls, The Color Purple and Lethal Weapon, among many others, Glover told nearly 300 guests not to fear the past, but to celebrate historic economic, education and voting acts that changed their lives. Glover, 67 next month, spoke of his family's long involvement in the civil rights movement. Three of the seven college scholarship recipients ($20,000 this year) were thrilled to ask Glover for academic and career advice.
BayNews 9 anchor Erica Riggins emceed the formal affair at the Wyndham Tampa Westshore on May 25. Men of Vision ushered; the On Que Players jazzed; and Ursula Odom dramatized the life of Mary McLeod Bethune. "Pay it forward, invest in the life of others," urged committee chairman Frank Crum.
Heart of a Champion scholarship dinner
Skill and endurance make a competitor, but it's maturity, guts, perseverance and passion that constitute "heart" for financier Bob Gries Jr., who endowed and hosted the first Heart of a Champion awards dinner May 16.
Overcoming adversity, abuse, illness, poverty and bullying are some criteria for the $1,000 scholarships he awarded to 66 Hillsborough County high school athletes. Coaches nominated students, who submitted essays to Gries, who chose one male and one female from 27 public and six private schools. "Let their inner eagle fly," read poet laureate James Tokley, adding his artful presence.
Plant High's Robert Weiner, Berkeley Prep's Randy Dagostino and Brandon High's Russ Cozart shared coaching insights with 400 students, parents, business leaders and professional athletes, including Darrelle Revis, Josh Freeman, Derrick Brooks and Gary Sheffield at A La Carte Event Pavilion.
Third annual Sneaker Soiree
Tampa Bay Rays coach Joe Maddon laced up Under Armour; Bucs coach Greg Schiano wore Nike; and new Lightning coach Jon Cooper stepped into Reeboks for the Sneaker Soiree hosted by the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. Perched on bar stools Cheers-style, "where everyone knows their game," the trio swapped stories until the "waiter," retiring Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber, called closing time. Just then, Mayor Bob Buckhorn arrived, presenting him the key to the city "from a grateful Bucs Nation." Barber was stunned to see his mother in the May 23 crowd at TPepin's Hospitality Centre.
Sports commission executive director Rob Higgins lured an impressive roster, from WWE's Titus O'Neil, in yellow bikini trunks and red necktie, who picked Higgins up like a chew toy, to the Rays' Evan Longoria, the Bolts' Martin St. Louis and wakeboarder Parks Bonifay. All the teams' mascots goofed around as hotel developer Joe Collier plucked a banjo and sportscaster Jenn Brown emceed.
"Can we wear sneakers to every gala?" asked Chad Chronister, representing DeBartolo Foundation to give the Freddie Solomon Moral Courage award to Strawberry Crest High School basketball player Kevin Garcia. Coach Maddon called Kevin back up later to ask him to present Rays' pitcher David Price's award in person at the Trop the next day.
Two other local legends were remembered: The Tom McEwen Community Advocate Award was accepted by Tami Karl on behalf of her late father, Fred Karl, and the Lee Roy Selmon Lifetime Achievement Award went to Outback Steakhouse founders Chris Sullivan and Bob Basham.
Pepin Distributors' Bill Gieseking drew Chad Hickman's name to win the first King of Tampa Bay Sports raffle: two tickets to every area sports franchise's home games, plus assorted annual sports events, 200 in all. Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan couldn't resist a baseball stadium in Tampa pitch, hitched to a thank-you to Longoria for supporting Belmont Heights Little League. "One of these days …"