TAMPA ― Less than three hours Wednesday after Kyle Lowry promised Lightning captain Steven Stamkos that he’d join him in donating holiday toys to Tampa Bay families in need, the Raptors point guard was surveying a truckload of gifts headed to Metropolitan Ministries.
Lowry has been in Tampa ― the Raptors’ temporary home for the first half of the NBA season ― for just more than two weeks, but he jumped at the opportunity to help locally. When Stamkos announced that he and Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman each were donating $5,000 to purchase presents, he also reached out to Lowry through Twitter.
It didn’t take long for Lowry to offer his first assist in Tampa.
“If he responded (to the tweet) at 4:30, he was on the phone with me at 4:31,” said David De Freitas, the Raptors’ director of community relations. “I could tell how important this was to him and that he wanted to get it done quickly.”
Unfamiliar with Tampa, Lowry asked De Freitas for help. Along with Raptors community relations coordinator Joey Leung, De Freitas packed a van full of toys. Lowry wanted a range of toys. There were sports-related ones ― basketballs, soccer balls, baseball bats, footballs and mini-hoops ― and non-sports offerings like scooters, stuffed animals, backpacks and Lego sets. But no video games, Lowry requested. He wanted his offerings to keep kids active, De Freitas said.
Over the past several years, Lowry and his wife, Ayahna, have donated gifts to under-served families in Toronto through their Lowry Holiday Assist event. They were unable to hold the event this year because of the coronavirus ― and the team’s temporary relocation to Tampa ― but are still giving gifts to the Red Door Family Shelter in Toronto.
“Normally, Kyle would want to be out there,” De Freitas said. “He’d be out there with the kids picking the toys with them. He wanted to do this. He asked us what it would take to do something like that and we were able to mobilize and get it done pretty quickly.”
Lowry inspected the presents Wednesday night, and they were donated at Amalie Arena on Thursday morning. The Lightning held a toy drive at Amalie on Tuesday and Wednesday, and twice this week Lightning staff members manned the Metropolitan Ministries holiday tent, taking donations, handing out presents and helping to serve meals and with childcare.
Though they play different sports, Stamkos and Lowry are friends. They’ve both had endorsement deals with Sport Chek, Canada’s largest sporting goods retailer, for the past several years. In fact, after Stamkos was featured in a Sport Chek ad in which he shoots down drones with hockey pucks, Lowry had his own advertisement where he’s taking out drones with a basketball.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.
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