37… 48… 54… 65… 82… 92… 98…
No, this isn’t some strange new way of counting. Those numbers were ever so important to some eager Davis Elementary school students, sitting cross-legged on the covered play court, awaiting the arrival of the beloved sports figures associated with those jersey numbers.
But the players weren’t just there for a visit. This day, UnitedHealthcare volunteers, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Fresh for Florida Kids volunteers, teachers and students as well as a smattering of Tampa Bay Buccaneer NFL football players all installed a UnitedHealthcare-sponsored Learning Gardens at Davis Elementary School, 10907 Memorial Highway.
Along with Tampa Bay Buccaneer cheerleaders and mascot Captain Fear, players Lavonte David, Andrew DePaola, William Gholston, Matthew Masifilo, Clinton McDonald, Brandon Myers and Keith Tandy took time out of their only day off to spend with the students to plant and nurture a garden of vegetables and herbs, and teach the value of healthy eating habits.
After their introduction, the players joined the sea of kids in black, white and red on the court, answered questions, high-fived and posed for dozens of photos.
Clinton McDonald said it was an opportunity to give back to the community and positively influence kids to eat healthy food.
“It’s not just buying food from the grocery store; the same food they’ll be bringing into the cafeteria is the same food that they get to grow,” said McDonald. “Kids see us doing something they aspire to do. We’re using our platform to do something positive.”
Davis Elementary is one of 24 Hillsborough County Schools that are members of the Buccaneer Academy program that provides interactive and innovative curriculum involving their favorite sports team.
The care of the plants and watching them grow will be part of the Davis Elementary curriculum.
Along with Davis Elementary, the learning garden program is also being installed at six other Buccaneers Academy schools: Cleveland Elementary, Kenly Elementary, Mort Elementary, Tampa Bay Blvd. Elementary, Twin Lakes Elementary and Winthrop Charter School.
When the time came to plant the nutritious garden, along with students and teachers, UHC volunteers from United Healthcare and Fresh From Florida Kids, the Bucs did not hesitate to get their hands dirty — literally digging in to help plant kale, radishes, lettuce, chard, arugala, tomato, spinach, carrot, cilantro, basil, parsley and marigold.
“I hated broccoli as a kid, but now it’s my second favorite vegetable — carrot are my first,” said Buccaneer Lavonte David.