In anticipation of a front-row seat for Bucs training camp, Madeline Robinson said a couple of the children she works with didn’t sleep Thursday night.
Robinson’s organization, Wheelchairs 4 Kids, was one of many invited to AdventHealth Training Center Friday for Buccaneers Community Impact Day. Groups from several local non-profits — Special Olympics Florida, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, Voices for Children of Tampa Bay and Guardian ad Litem Foundation of Tampa Bay — also got the chance to watch some of their favorite players practice in person.
Children with Wheelchairs 4 Kids held circular signs with players’ names and numbers printed on them. Their “favorite players” lists, of course, were headlined by quarterback Tom Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Mike Evans.
“They all have different ones (signs),” said Robinson, the organization’s executive director. “Of course, the ones that have Brady and Gronk, the other kids are a little jealous.”
Wheelchairs 4 Kids brought a group of 42 to camp, comprised of 15 children and select family members. Robinson said the organization has been invited to camp the past five or six years. But before Friday, (discounting 2020 when fans weren’t permitted), it could only bring about 10 people.
Wheelchairs 4 Kids has two main channels of service for children with physical disabilities: one for fun activities in the community and another for providing free home modifications, wheelchairs and other needed equipment to children and their families.
The Bucs have had Wheelchairs 4 Kids on their radar for several years now, and the organizations have an excellent relationship, Robinson said. She and the families involved with the nonprofit were excited to be invited back this year, especially coming off a Super Bowl-winning season.
“The Buccaneers, they’re always supporting us,” Robinson said. “When they got the (Lombardi) trophy last year, we had a private day with the trophy. That was kind of fun. They’ve been amazing.”
Guardian Haven Academy, an organization formed in 2018 that teaches life skills to individuals 22 years old and up with intellectual or developmental disabilities, also was invited.
“It’s very important to see the individuals with smiles on their faces,” co-founder Chris Humphries said. “We let them know a couple days ago that they would be attending, so a lot of smiles are put on their faces, and this morning was even more.”
As part of a more than decade-long tradition, athletes from Special Olympics Florida were invited to run drills with Bucs staff members after the morning session. Special Olympics Florida serves over 60,000 athletes across the state, and Hillsborough County has a nationally renowned adaptive sports program (which recently added wheelchair football to its repertoire).
Additionally, 200 people from Voices For Children of Tampa Bay and Guardian ad Litem Foundation of Tampa Bay were gifted backpacks and school supplies by head coach Bruce Arians’ Arians Family Foundation. Tuesday marks the first day of school for Hillsborough County public school students.
Arians called Community Impact Day “one of my favorite days.”
“Just to see the smile on their face and know they’ve got everything they need for school,” he said. “It’s been one of my favorite days for a long, long time.”