Photo courtesy of Agostini photography (L--R Gina Morales, Dale Gordon,Ronda Parag)

I'm hopeless when it comes to sports despite, A. My marriage to a die-hard Tampa Bay area sports fanatic, B. Having great friends in sports-talk radio, and C. Being the daughter of a soccer super fan. Sometimes I feel as if I am from another universe though I do love hockey and soccer...but that sadly is where my love affair and knowledge of sports ends.

There is hope for me however,  I do absolutely love the Tampa Bay Lightning and greatly appreciate their organization's commitment to community, which as you know comes from the top down. I was delighted when an invitation to Athletes and Causes arrived courtesy of my employer for the March 10th fundraiser at Amalie Arena.

Founder of Athletes and Causes, Rob Canton, senior adviser to ownership for the Vinik Family Office, really knows how to throw a party!  As a relatively new event, this their third annual, I was excited to learn they were sold out. Some of Tampa Bay's brightest stars attended, I saw Rays Pitcher Chris Archer roaming about though I must admit, I found it difficult to recognize players without their names plastered across the back of a jersey!

Surrounded by Tampa Bay sports royalty nothing prepared me for what happened next, meeting Taylor Swift's father! Yes, as in Miss 1989 herself. Don't get me wrong, I loved meeting the athletes but not being a HUGE sports fan like my family, meeting Taylor Swift's dad had me Twittering and Snapchatting!  Merely mentioning him showing pictures of Taylor and her boyfriend Calvin Harris to me on my Twitter stream blew up my phone!  It was truly unreal and an experience I will remember well.

The highlight of the evening however was watching Rob Canton raise thousands of dollars for a great cause!  Six youth charities benefited from this amazing night: the Children's Dream Fund, Mike Alstott's Family Foundation, Chris Archer's Archway Foundation, Because of Jason, the Ryan Callahan Foundation and Canton's Athletes and Causes split more than $200,000 raised in donation.  Scott Swift donated a guitar, autographed by Taylor raising $5,000, a local realtor paid $10,000 for dinner with Jeff Vinik and corporate suite tickets, and $8,000 was raised as 100 bottles of wine, each signed by a celebrity, were snapped up! All in all, it was a great night for everyone and something you should put on your calendar next year! I know I will be there!Saturday, April 2, I had the pleasure of attending the 13th Annual Debartolo All-Star Charity Gala at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina - A stunning venue for any event, the Waterside did not disappoint! The room was stunning!

Photo courtesy of Michael Blitch Photography 
Bursting with sports celebrities from Hall of Fame inductees to rookies, in total fifty-seven celebrities attended the gala courtesy of  the man of the hour, Mr. Edward J. Debartolo, Jr.  Recently recognized for ownership of the San Francisco 49ers and their five Super Bowls in 14 years, a record total for a single owner, Mr. D was elected into the Hall of Fame this past February. My former boss bid $25,000 to travel to Canton, Ohio for the induction ceremony!

Lisa and Edward Debartolo Jr.
Debartolo Family Foundation Vice President and event chair Lisa Debartolo, Mr. D's daughter, explained the charity did not send out invitations this year, yet the event sold out. Great news! To say that the community loves and supports Mr. D for the philanthropy and commitment his family shows to our area is an understatement. Lisa pointed out that her father instilled in her that all the money in the world means nothing if you don't give back to the community and welcome people into your heart like family.  This kind of thinking is why Mr. D and his family are heroes in the Tampa Bay community.

The Debartolo Foundation awards scholarships annually to high school students, provides school supplies to local teachers, adopts Bay Area families during the holidays, provides grants to organizations with exceptional requirements and presents a Spirit of Humanity Award to honor other non-profits and deserving grass roots organizations locally.  Be sure to check the deadlines below and apply or encourage people you know to apply!

Important Foundation Dates and Deadlines:
April 15 – 2016 Community Grant Application Available
October 7 – 2016 Community Grant Application Due

Interested in upcoming events? Check out  The BIG List of Local Charity Events in Tampa for Spring 2016 . You will find several unique, fun and interesting events to support this Spring from The Humane Society to Redefining Refuge on this list!  Let us know in comments below your favorite charity organizations, events and how people can become involved!

My husband Chris and me
My friend Christina Pitalo and I doing a selfie with Tampa Bay Buccaneeer Quarterback Jameis Winston in the background.

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