HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Mike Alstott is remembered for his plays out on the field with the Buccaneers but for several years now, he’s created a special bond with firefighters that truly reflects the meaning of the holidays.
“Most of us grew up watching him on Sundays and representing the Bucs and being the “A-Train” and then seeing the personal side of Mike, giving back to the community and giving back to our firefighters in Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, it’s an experience that we are all proud to be a part of,” said Jon Dougherty, Deputy Chief of Operations of the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.
Alstott continued the legacy of giving on Monday morning by handing out hundreds of meal kits to fire crews who will spend thanksgiving day on call at the 46 stations that make up Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.
“A lot of ‘thank yous’ today,” said Alstott.
The tradition began four years ago in Hillsborough County; a simple yet generous way to emphasize the meaning of Thanksgiving and community.
“Everybody is great. I love firefighters and what they do, first of all, you know what I mean? But everyone is so humble,” said Alstott.
This year, receiving a turkey and all the fixing means much more following the grueling COVID-19 pandemic that tested these fire crews.
“It was exhausting, mentally and physically, for our firefighters throughout the pandemic; not only responding to COVID-type calls but also being in that environment when they had to come back home to their families and make sure they weren’t exposing their families to the COVID virus itself,” said Dougherty.
A sacrifice that didn’t go unnoticed by the Mike Alstott Foundation.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling. It’s one less challenge that we have that day, no grocery shopping, and we’re able to spend a little bit more time with our fire family and our families that come to the stations to celebrate with us,” said Dougherty.
Mike and his team will hand out Thanksgiving meals on Sunday to fire crews in Pinellas county. The Mike Alstott Foundation’s Thanksgiving tradition in that county started 12 years ago.