TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Rob Gronkowski is new to the Tampa Bay area but is already stepping up to help out a local school.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end announced Tuesday he and his new team are going to replace a storage shed that was burned down at Blake High School last month. They’re also replacing all of the football equipment that was inside the shed.
“The Gronk Nation Youth Foundation and my new team – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – are all about helping youth reach their full potential. So we’re gonna do just that,” Gronkowski said in a video message posted to Twitter. “To the Blake High School Yellow Jackets, you’re getting a brand new storage unit and new football equipment to replace everything that was lost, courtesy of our foundation and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation.”
Kavon Willingham, who will be a senior on the football team this season, could hardly believe it.
“I was shocked,” he said. “I was amazed like Gronkowski, he just came down here from New England, and he thinks of us like this, the community, I was happy. It was unfortunate what happened at Blake. For him to even think about it and the Bucs, very happy, I appreciate it.”
The storage shed at Blake High School burned down on May 16. Tampa Fire Rescue investigators estimated the loss of the shed and everything inside was about $11,000.
Fire investigators later determined the fire was set intentionally. They arrested a juvenile suspect on two counts of second-degree arson and one count of burglary.
“They were hurt more than anything,” Principal Jesse Salters said. “Upset because they knew it was not something of natural causes. It was something that someone did intentionally so they were definitely hurt by it and confused by why someone would choose our shed but they are resilient. They are students who are going to find a way. Our students face adversity constantly and they overcome that on a day to day basis so we are going to try to make it work.”
Now, with the help of Gronkowski and the Buccaneers, those football players will not have to worry about being able to play the game.
“I was completely overjoyed for our students,” said Salters. “For a foundation to come in and provide that support and get them back up and running and feel like they are wanted and supported really is the key.”
Salters said the process began with one email from the Gronk Nation Youth Foundation. He admitted he knew about the announcement but he kept it from the head football coach and the players. They received the ultimate surprise on Tuesday.
“I am happy he is in Tampa now,” said Willingham.
“You are great,” Salters said, looking straight into the camera to drive home his message to Gronkowski and his new team. “We support you. We thank you for all that you have done for us and we are looking forward to having you in our community.”
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