Turning the shopping aisles of the Las Olas Publix into a virtual dreamscape for some of the area’s underprivileged children has become a tradition for the Miami Dolphins around Thanksgiving. Last night was a chance to honor the inspiration behind the tradition.
Shortly before the 100 boys and girls from four elementary schools in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties headed downstairs to find the items on their grocery list, a bunch of balloons were released into the night sky from the rooftop of the parking garage in memory of former Dolphins linebacker Junior Seau. It was Seau who brought his “Shop With A Jock” program from San Diego to South Florida in 2003 when he joined the Dolphins after 13 seasons with the Chargers.
Dolphins running back
“It means a lot because obviously Junior was a guy who was a pioneer for the sport of football,” Bush said. “He was a guy who played the game with passion and a guy that I think just about every football player has a lot of respect, not only for the type of player that he was but the type of person that he was off the field. I had the pleasure of knowing him and he actually came to some of my charity events, so it just says a lot about his character and the type of person that he was. I think it’s amazing that I’m able to be here to help honor him today, especially with the rest of my teammates and these kids.”
Before the 100 children, each armed with a $100 gift certificate, hit the ground floor running there was a dinner and a little dance party on the roof to get things started. This is the eighth year of the event (there were two years that it had to be canceled due to hurricanes) and the enthusiasm never seems to wane. Among all of the things Publix does in partnership with the Dolphins, the Fins and Kids Publix Shopping Spree has become one of the most popular and memorable events.
When Seau left the Dolphins in 2006 after three seasons in the aqua and orange to play for the New England Patriots, he wanted to make sure someone carried the torch for him and kept the program going. His relationship with Publix was strong enough to make that a reality, and in the wake of his unfortunate passing earlier this year, the supermarket giant and his former team felt even more emboldened to keep it going.
“His legacy lives on and this is still a fabulous event and very worthwhile,” said Bill Fauerbach, Vice President of Retail Operations for Publix Supermarkets. “We have plans to continue our relationship with the Dolphins and of course Junior gave us his blessing to continue with the program and his foundation still supports it. It’s just a great event for the kids and a great way to honor Junior’s memory.”
There was a brief ceremony after the dance party and before the shopping spree on the roof during which a special message written by Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas was read by Maria Brouse, Director of Media and Community Relations for Publix Supermarkets. She also presented a special plaque to Jim Barone, the president of the Junior Seau Foundation who flew in from San Diego to represent the foundation and lend support.
This was Dansby’s first time participating in the event and the fact that he plays the same position as Seau made it even more special for him. He watched a lot of film of Seau as a player in an attempt to pick up some pointers that would help him on the field, but it’s what he learned about Seau’s charity endeavors that really hit home for the veteran.
“This is an awesome opportunity for me to get out into the community with my teammates and alumni just to keep Junior Seau’s memory going,” Dansby said. “Everybody who ever played this position looked up to Seau because he was one of the best to ever do it, but what he brought to the game off the field is even more impactful than what he did on the field. Right now we’re just trying to do our little part to keep it going because he touched so many people.”
Rookie running back
Back when he was a kid, Miller’s parents did all the shopping for Thanksgiving dinner so he just waited to see what was on the table that afternoon to eat. This was a new experience for him and he became almost like a second kid as he made his way up and down the aisles with the student he was paired with.
“It was a good experience and my kid didn’t really have a list so we were just going down the aisles getting things I thought they would need for him and his family,” Miller said. “We didn’t get any candy because he really didn’t ask for any candy, which surprised me because growing up a lot of kids want to just get a lot of candy. I was born in South Miami so it made it more special for me to help these kids.”
Carpenter has been one of the hosts of the Fins and Kids Shopping Spree each of the last three years so he truly has embraced the event and the principles that Seau put in place. As the evening drew to a close, he was humbled by the impact he was told he was making on behalf of Seau and Seau’s foundation.
“It’s an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as Junior,” Carpenter said. “I never got to meet him in person but you don’t have to meet him to know what kind of a guy he was. Everyone has nothing but special things to say about him from the things he did on the field and especially the things he did off the field. He really set the bar for guys like Karlos, Reggie and myself to come in and basically just piggy back off of the work that he did.”