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WWE launches WrestleMania week with community champions caravan

The Bucs, Lightning, Rays and Rowdies were each awarded $3,700 grants to help the Replay Tampa Bay drive, which provides sports equipment to kids.
Published Apr. 6
Updated Apr. 6

TAMPA — Titus O’Neil knows the leaders of the Tampa Bay area’s four professional sports teams well. He’s worked with them all on various local community events. Tuesday, O’Neil, a WWE global ambassador, had the honor of presenting each of the clubs with a grant as part of this week’s WrestleMania 37 community champions caravan.

Each of the area’s four professional sports teams — the Bucs, Lightning, Rays and Rowdies — received a $3,700 grant (for WrestleMania 37) that the organizations will put toward the Replay Tampa Bay sporting goods drive, which has supplied new and slightly used sports equipment to kids in the Tampa Bay area since 2011.

WWE has selected 11 community champions throughout the Tampa Bay region to receive the grants.

“WWE has a great commitment to the community, and I think you’re seeing that today with the variety of celebrations going on in the region,” Tampa Bay Sports Commission executive director Rob Higgins said.” They really want to give back and make a difference. And we’re so fortunate to have Titus O’Neil here, whose agenda every single day is to help the community and its kids.”

Bucs COO Brian Ford, Tampa Bay Sports Commission executive director Rob Higgins, WWE global ambassador Titus O'Neil, Lightning CEO Steve Griggs, Rays team president Brian Auld and Tampa mayor Jane Castor pose for photos at a community event Tuesday. WWE awarded $3,700 grants to each team as part of the WrestleMania week community champions caravan.
Bucs COO Brian Ford, Tampa Bay Sports Commission executive director Rob Higgins, WWE global ambassador Titus O'Neil, Lightning CEO Steve Griggs, Rays team president Brian Auld and Tampa mayor Jane Castor pose for photos at a community event Tuesday. WWE awarded $3,700 grants to each team as part of the WrestleMania week community champions caravan. [ EDUARDO A. ENCINA | Tampa Bay Times ]

O’Neil, whose Bullard Family Foundation (O’Neil’s real name is Thaddeus Bullard) is active in a variety of community causes, worked with the Bucs two years ago to provide backpacks and school supplies to 15,000 children and this past year worked with the Bucs and Lightning to hold a virtual Back to School Bash at Amalie Arena. He’s been the recipient of the Lightning’s community hero award, which comes with a $50,000 grant.

“Our footprint in this community would definitely not be as large without having our sports organizations,” O’Neil said. “They continuously answer the call day in and day out, year in and year out, to make sure they put smiles on kids faces, to help families become more self-sufficient and provide opportunities that last a lifetime.”

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.