Local athletes learned firsthand it’s better to give than to receive last week.
Durant’s baseball and football teams joined forces once again to put on their annual Christmas party for kids in Camelot Foster Group’s network. The party, a team effort with Cater Tampa, has helped hundreds of kids and their foster families for the last three years by providing free gifts, meals, one-on-one time with Santa Claus and a night of fun for everyone.
This year, though, the party moved from Brandon to Plant City and got a visual upgrade the kids loved. When Christmas Lane namesake Lane Wetherington heard about the Camelot party, he jumped at the chance to open up his venue on a Tuesday night so the kids and their families could have the magical Christmas Lane display in all its glory all to themselves on Dec. 17.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to come in and share the spirit of Christmas Lane,” Wetherington said.
That made planning much easier for both Durant and Cater Tampa, as everything from food serving equipment to the decorations themselves was already available. Cater Tampa could focus on the food prep and Durant could focus on what wrapping was left to do, even after a wrapping party the previous week that offensive line coach Wesley Wyatt called “one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen” and several class periods devoted to wrapping gifts for 232 children from 67 foster families. Gifts and money for gifts were bought using donations, including a $600 donation from Millwright Local Union #1,000, and Shannon Hampton of Cater Tampa said the Chick-fil-A stores on Bloomingdale Avenue in Valrico and Causeway Boulevard in Brandon also bought gifts.
“It’s really awesome,” Wyatt said. “I’m speechless at how this turned out. It’s gonna be a spectacular night for these kids… some of these kids have never been to anything like this for Christmas.”
Strawberry Crest’s baseball and softball teams also continued their annual traditions of giving back to the community with their own Christmas parties last week. Both stayed at their traditional venues — the softball team at the school and the baseball team at the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s in Seffner — and wrapped up months of hard work identifying kids in need and picking out the perfect presents.
The softball team threw its annual on-campus Christmas party for two Crest students, Hailey and Nathan, and kept it a surprise until the two Chargers were in the classroom. The softball players stepped up to get gifts for Hailey and Nathan and made sure those students had a day they won’t soon forget.
“It was awesome,” head coach Mindy Miltner said. “The two students loved their gifts and the players’ hearts were so full.”
The baseball team’s event grew so large it took up the entire side room at Beef’s and even spilled out somewhat into the main area of the restaurant. Head coach Eric Beattie said Bailey Elementary recommended two families, one with six kids and one with two, that “deserve a blessing” for Christmas and made accommodations for more than 100 people to attend the dinner party. The kids got to take home tons of presents and the families also got gift cards donated by the team.
“The community helps us out so much every fall,” Beattie said. “This gives us a chance to help the community.”