Rays, Bucs and Bolts spreading holiday cheer

11:40 PM, Dec 20, 2013   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida-- Tis' the season for giving and sharing. For the Buccaneers defensive line, Rays' manager Joe Maddon and a handful of Lightning players, the heart they show on the field paled in comparison to holiday compassion off of it.

For the second year in a row Maddon hosted his "Thanksmas" celebration in the Tampa Bay area. The series of events, is an effort to help provide meals and clothing for the homeless. The skipper hosted his week-long "Thanksmas" kickoff party at 717 South, generating funds and donations.

"At the conclusion of each Thanksmas season, we collect the funds we generate to buy gifts and donate to the local Salvation Army's," said Maddon.

The Buccaneers defensive line along with their wives and cheerleaders joined in the giving spirit as well. Thursday evening at One Buccaneer Place, they hosted 130 families from across Tampa Bay. Emcee Gerald McCoy announced the families would receive five gifts provided by the Buccaneers group. 

Besides the household items and gift cards for gas and food, the children's eyes really lit up as the were surprised with brand new bicycles. 

One of the most memorable scenes amongst all the smiling faces was defensive end Steven Means carrying a little girl on his broad shoulders over the crowd to help her find the new bike with her name on it. 

"We fought to have what we had, and to be able to see these kids have a special Christmas for themselves, it's just a humbling experience," said Means.

But the Bucs weren't done delivering a special Christmas, McCoy then yelled out "everyone on the bus," as they took the families to Target for a shopping spree. It was hard to gauge who was more excited, the  kids or the players.

The Lightning's Victor Hedman, Alex Killorn and Anders Lindback found out it's better to give than receive. The three bolts players shared in the holiday spirit with the kids of pediatric ward at Tampa General Hospital. Besides the exchanging of warm smiles, the Bolts gave the children hockey blankets and autographs. 

"Makes you appreciate what you have, and what these families go through," said Hedman. "To just come over here and put a smile on these kids faces is the best Christmas present you can get."

Sure all the teams bring a smile to fans faces on gameday, but during the Christmas season, the gifts and charity they're providing is making more of an impact.

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