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Bucs Rookie Club strikes a chord in the community

TAMPA — Sergio Ospina, 10, got to do something at school Tuesday that most kids can only dream about.

He spent the afternoon with quarterback Jameis Winston and other members of the 2015 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rookie Club.

Sergio said although he knew the football players were coming, he was still surprised when they stepped inside the gymnasium of the Patricia Sullivan Metropolitan Ministries School.

"I was nervous when they came in," he said. "I've never seen real football players."

Sergio was one of more than 100 students who danced the hokey pokey, fashioned footballs out of paper plates and painted faces with Winston, linebacker Kwon Alexander, guard Ali Marpet, tackle Donovan Smith, receiver Donteea Dye and other rookie players, as well as Bucs mascot Captain Fear and Buccaneers cheerleaders.

For more than 20 years, members of the Rookie Club have visited Metropolitan Ministries to entertain the nonprofit's resident children as part of its annual Fall Festival.

Metropolitan Ministries president and CEO Tim Marks said he and his staff are grateful that the Rookie Club makes it a priority to visit the organization's Florida Avenue campus.

"This is a real special treat, to show these children they are loved and cared for," he said. "It does mean a lot."

The event is just one of many service projects rookie players will complete throughout the season, said Eileen Sweeney, director of community relations for the Buccaneers.

Earlier this year, the club served lunch to the homeless at Trinity Cafe, bowled with members of Tampa Fire Rescue, visited with wounded warriors at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center, and greeted service members at MacDill Air Force Base.

The outreach program is designed to help rookie players become acquainted with their new hometown and one another, Sweeney said.

The program also helps the players lay a foundation for their own philanthropic endeavors, she said.

"They can get a feel for the projects they want to be involved in and also get a feel for the need in the community," she said.

Winston said the visit to Metropolitan Ministries reinforced his desire to do more community service and philanthropic work in the Tampa Bay area.

Winston said he hasn't narrowed his philanthropic work down to a specific cause he'd like to champion, but pointed out that he has an interest in diabetes because his grandmother and other family members suffer from the disease.

Whatever his mission, it will involve helping children, Winston said.

"I definitely want to be around kids and affect them in a positive way," the quarterback said.

Alexander, the linebacker, said he also is thinking of performing more community service in addition to the work he does with the Rookie Club.

"I really like going out and helping people," he said. "I'll help in any way that I can."

Contact Kenya Woodard at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

Bucs Rookie Club strikes a chord in the community 10/08/15 [Last modified: Thursday, October 8, 2015 5:21pm]
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