Sports teams from area schools are giving back to the community for Christmas.
Every year, athletes from the Plant City area get in the holiday spirit by putting others’ needs before their own.
Several high school teams are coming together this week to help families, foster children and more have a brighter, merrier Christmas by giving them food and fun for free. It’s more than just a way to give back to the community, too. It’s teaching the players a valuable lesson about life: don’t take your blessings for granted.
“We spend so much time of our own fundraising and asking for help, I try to help (the players) understand we can go out and help other people just like we’re asking people to help us through our golf tournament and other fundraisers,” Strawberry Crest baseball coach Eric Beattie said.
The Chargers’ baseball and softball teams traditionally like to play not-so-Secret Santa for local families and students each December. This year, the softball team is buying gifts and throwing a party for a classmate and the baseball team hosted a dinner and bought gifts for two families in neighboring Bailey Elementary’s network.
“Obviously it’s great to see the kids get excited about it. It’s fun for our players,” Beattie said. “They recognize not everyone as blessed as they are. I encourage players to use their own earned money to buy gifts. A lot of them take pride in it. Even if they only have $30 or $40 they’ll take $10 or $15 of their own money and buy gifts for them. It’s just as exciting for our players as it is for the kids getting the gifts.”
Durant athletes are also feeling the Christmas spirit. The football, baseball and softball teams hosted a big dinner party last year for kids in Camelot Foster Group’s network and enjoyed it so much they hosted another event for the kids Tuesday night.
“Seeing our kids interacting with their kids is pretty fun,” Durant baseball coach Butch Valdes said. “It’s enjoyable spending time with all the groups together and letting the kids get an opportunity to put a smile on their faces.”
This year, the players, coaches and families partnered with Cater Tampa and Ed Morse Cadillac to celebrate with 250 kids, each of whom got five gifts. Cougar Nation stepped up to the plate when it came to buying the gifts. The baseball and softball teams turned it into team bonding experiences, too: the boys spent a Saturday shopping at Target together and the girls had a wrapping party last week to get the hundreds of gifts ready to go. The football team and their families also pitched in to do some shopping. Coach Wesley Wyatt said they went out of their way to get name-brand toys and clothing, even Nike shoes, for the kids.
The entire baseball and softball teams came out for the event and Wyatt said the football team’s turnout this year exceeded last year’s. Once the athletes got there and interacted with the kids, Wyatt said, they quickly learned not to take their blessings for granted.
“It kind of humbled them,” Wyatt said. “They learned it’s a lot more kids in need out there than what they thought.”