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They say tragedy and adversity have a way of bringing people together. That sentiment rang true on Monday, when the Buccaneers hosted the 6th Annual Cut for a Cure at One Buccaneer Place. It was an all-encompassing effort as players and staff took to the stage of the Buccaneers’ auditorium to have their hair shaved, cut or colored by some special guests brought in by the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation. Thanks to donations made and solicited by players and staff of the Buccaneers, the organization was able to raise $130,000 to go towards pediatric cancer research – almost double the $75,000 raised last year.
To give some frame of reference as to how much impact that money can have, CEO of the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, David Frazer, said that it would pay for a research trial in its entirety.
“Our mission is to raise awareness and funds to support pediatric cancer research,” Frazer said. “Fifteen children is what it takes to enter into one trial and the minimum cost to get going is $100,000. I think the Bucs should be proud to know that achieving that goal today, they’re going to start a trial. The beauty is that work that will be done on that trial will impact thousands of people across the country. So it’s not just what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers do here in Tampa Bay, it’s about now what they’re going to do nationwide.”
“What we’re trying to bring about is awareness,” echoed Buccaneers’ Chief Operating Officer Brian Ford. “There are families in there that are fighting it every day and to be called and told that your child has cancer, what do you do? If we could give them a day away and bring them laughter and some smiles, that’s what it’s all about. When you start looking at the facts: 10 drugs developed since 1980, 4% of the total funds for cancer research go towards pediatric, 43 kids every day are diagnosed with cancer. This is something that people have to realize and it needs to change. As an organization, I’m proud of the players and I’m proud of the staff, Jason Licht, our general manager.”
Jason Licht followed through on his promise to shave his head should the organization top its $100,000 goal. Both Licht and his son, Charlie, had their heads shaved by Bo Wade, the son of Buccaneers’ Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Chad Wade, who is currently battling Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer.
This cause hit home because of Bo not only with Licht, but with many Buccaneers players, including linebacker Lavonte David. David has known Wade since his days at the University of Nebraska and stepped up to be a captain of the Bucs’ fundraising team, having also had experience raising money for another foundation benefiting cancer research at his alma mater.
“Back in Nebraska we have a foundation, the Team Jack Foundation, for kids with pediatric brain cancer,” David said. “It’s something that I’ve always been affiliated with and I’ve been donating to that since I left Nebraska. And now there’s someone who’s really close to me, Coach Wade, who was with me at Nebraska, so he knew how that [foundation] worked. For him to now be going through the same thing, I knew I needed to make an even bigger jump into it.
“Being a captain is one of the main things I wanted to do this year and put my face on it to show everybody that I really care about this whole situation.”
David, himself, chipped in $10,000 to the cause. He was joined by fellow fundraising team captains defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and new defensive tackle Beau Allen. Each made their own significant donations to the cause, including McCoy rounding the final total of $123,000 to $130,000 because he ‘doesn’t like odd numbers’ on top of his initial donation. McCoy and Allen both got a little colorful, with Allen sporting different color eyebrows and facial hair and McCoy rocking a ‘you call it’ multicolored beard, as he put it.
“It’s great, man,” McCoy said of the event. “It goes to show that what we do has given us a platform that is bigger than us and the support we show for one another; we see one of our family members in need and we do what is necessary to help him out. I love [this event]. It’s a part of me. I love people. Any way I can help, whether it’s just being here, it doesn’t always have to be donating or cutting my hair-I’ve done something different every year. Sometimes I donate a different amount, one year I cut my dreads off, this year I colored my beard and donated. Just being here sometimes helps people and that’s all I want to do. I do what I can to help.”
The way the players stepped up hasn’t gone unnoticed by Licht, either. The underlying footnote in this event has been the team’s response to a cause like this one and what that means in regards to the strong relationships being built in the locker room and around the building. Many advocated on social media, imploring followers and friends to donate to the Bucs’ fundraising team on top of chipping in themselves. It offers a glimpse into the bond the team is forming this offseason as well.
“We’re a family here and that’s what it’s all about, being a family,” McCoy said. “We had a speaker today that talked about chemistry and that’s what this thing is about. We’re a family who’s rolling together and building that chemistry, not just on the field but off the field. I’m excited fort things moving forward. This is a start. It isn’t just us. It’s the coaching staff, the business side, this whole building, the organization. It’s about the organization and what we represent, more than just football.”
That’s music to the ears of Licht, among others, who have stressed character and acquiring players that will contribute to the team off-the-field, as well as on it, this offseason.
“It’s tremendous,” Licht said of the player involvement this year. “It’s a bunch of great guys, this is a great locker-room and for them to want to come together for a cause like this also shows what they’re going to want to come together for on the field.”
“It just goes to show that Mr. Licht and [Head Coach Dirk Koetter], they did their research with going to get the right types of guys on this team, not just on the field but off the field,” McCoy continued. “I’m happy about it.”
If you would still like to get involved with the cause, donations are still being accepted to the Buccaneers’ Cut for a Cure team here.