Coaches – Hyde Park Cheers Check Presentation

As our Inaugural Cheers to PUBLic Service – Coaches Cycle comes to a close, we would like to take a moment to thank all 80 coaches that were nominated for these awards. Your stories are touching, encouraging, and honest representations of the heart and soul it takes to be a youth coach, and we are truly blessed to have so many legendary leaders coaching our kids throughout Hillsborough and Pasco County – Thank you for all that you do for our youth, and the community!

Although incredibly difficult, alongside our Pillar Partners, we have selected twenty stand-out coaches that will receive $1000 each as winners of our Cheers to PUBlic Service awards! CONGRATULATIONS, WINNERS!

In addition to $1,000 each, our partners at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers invited all of our coaches along with their guests to enjoy the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons game on December 30th, 2018 and Ed Morse Cadillac of Brandon chose four winners to enjoy a Weekend Excursion in a brand new Cadillac Escalade! Huge thanks to all of our Pillar Partners who make this program possible: DeBartolo Family Foundation, The Junior League of Tampa, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Ed Morse Cadillac of Brandon, and The Outback Bowl. We couldn’t do it without you!

Please read on to learn a little more about our 2018 Hyde Park winners:
DENNIS KITKO – Wrestling Coach Bloomingdale High School
Coach Dennis Kitko has been giving back through coaching for twenty-one years, and credits the learnings of his church with lighting his passion to help others.  Coach Kitko has coached soccer, volleyball, baseball, flag football, and currently coaches wrestling at Bloomingdale High School.  When asked if there is a story from coaching that sticks out as a great representation of why he loves his job, he told us about his time coaching for Fort Braden Middle School: “They had only won one game in the previous two years. By the end of the season we finished second out of over 20 teams. They were 11-2. It was a group of girls who just wanted to prove to everyone that a little country middle school could compete with anyone. I have never been more proud of a group of students. They were at practice every day even though they had to practice in a dirt volleyball field outside. It was the only school that didn’t have a gym but they didn’t care. The look on their faces when they made it to the championship game was priceless. I have won many awards for coaching, but this group of young ladies made me so proud to be called a coach.”
While this story is certainly a shining example of why Coach Kitko deserves this award, it’s what he plans to do with a portion of the prize money that made us smile ear-to-ear…In addition to taking his family on a vacation to the North Georgia mountains for spring break, Coach Kitko also plans to “buy one chair for the new building at [his] church to help someone have a seat at the place where [he] learned how important it was to help others.”
Thank you, Coach Kitko – For not only showing our youth that anything is possible, but also for encouraging future generations to follow in your footsteps and embrace a life of giving back!
TRACY HOWARD – Cheerleading Coach East Bay High School
With thirteen years of coaching under her belt, Coach Tracy Howard views her childhood passion for athletics and the desire to spend more time with her daughter as the two catalysts that launched her into a coaching career.  She looks back fondly on her youth and the coaches that helped mold her into the woman that she is today through their leadership, guidance, and unwavering influence.  Coach Howard exemplifies these same attributes as she inspires hundreds of young women through the cheerleading program at East Bay High School.  When asked why she loves to coach, Tracy tells us, “I began coaching to spend more time with my daughter in the sports that she loved.  That experience blossomed into the realization that I could make a difference in the outcome of a young person’s life.  I have watched numerous athletes of mine become successful women and men – Four of them becoming D1 athletes and two serving as women in our U.S. Military.  Knowing that I have had a part in molding each of my athletes into successful adults is the perfect representation of why I love what I do!”
Tracy’s selflessness is not only evident in her ‘why’, but also in her plans for the prize money.  When asked what she was going to do with the $1,000 award, she told us that she plans to use the money to help her assistant coaches attend UCA Nationals alongside herself and the rest of the team.
Thank you, Coach Howard – For inspiring these young adults to reach for the stars, and giving them the leadership and guidance necessary to ensure they succeed.  Best of luck at Nationals!
EARL GARCIA – Football Coach Hillsborough High School
Earl has had a positive impact coaching thousands of bay area boys into manhood for 45 years at the youth and high school level. He has helped many of his athletes gain a scholarship to college, complete their degrees and find employment.
Thank you, Coach Garcia – for your lifetime commitment to our young adults and this community!
OLANDO RIVERA – Kickboxing Coach Olando’s Kickboxing Fitness
Coach Olando “THE WARRIOR”Rivera’s passion for kids and commitment to being a force for good in his “little warriors'” lives is nothing short of extraordinary.  For the last three decades, Coach O. has not only devoted himself to coaching martial arts and kickboxing, but upon learning that his son was autistic developed an adaptive fitness program for his son, as well as other children with an autism spectrum diagnosis.  It was through the mother of one of his autistic students that we first came to learn about Coach O. and the incredible difference he is making in these kids’ lives.  He recounts one “little warrior’s” journey as just one of many reasons his passion lies in his work at Olando’s Kickboxing Fitness in Tampa:  “I have a student who is on the autism spectrum.  When he first came to me he was very shy and could not make eye contact with me – he was very energetic, but unfocused and uncooperative.  After months of working with him patiently and consistently, he learned how fitness can be fun!  He now makes great eye contact with me and he excels at his training!  That is what makes me love what I do – Being able to work with children and really feeling like I’m making a difference in their lives.”
Although Olando did not have a father to mentor him growing up, and experienced hard times and his fair share of bullying until he discovered martial arts, once he had found his life’s purpose, he found himself surrounded by incredible instructors and coaches that showed him not only how to defend himself, but “helped him in all aspects of [his] life guiding [him] with the tools to have a successful career as a professional athlete earning 5 World Kickboxing Titles!”
Thanks to Coach O., Olando’s Kickboxing Fitness provides a safe-haven for children in need of a mentor, young adults in need of discipline, and kids on the autism spectrum that just need a little special attention from a very special coach.
Thank you, Coach O. – For being an inspiration to our youth, and a warrior for anyone needing someone in their corner!
Coach O. also won a weekend excursion in a brand new Cadillac Escalade courtesy of Ed Morse Cadillac of Brandon!
JESSICA THORNTON – Volleyball Coach Riverview High School
Coach Jessica Thornton is a phenomenal coach who manages to connect to every single girl that she coaches.  She dedicates the majority of her time to maintaining a healthy environment at practice and with the athletes.  She has purchased resources with her own funds to help the girls both on and off the court, and she brings them up both physically and mentally to prepare them for the real world.  Coach Thornton caters volleyball drills to push the girls to their limits to show them all what they are capable of, and she encourages her girls to be well-rounded people, which means giving extra time from her family to encourage the girls to stay involved in athletics, help the girls with their studies, and shape them into strong and confident young women.  She holds personal meetings with the girls to hold them accountable for their actions in school and in volleyball.  She has given everything to the program here at Riverview and some.  Every one of her players and co-workers admire her and her incredible work ethic.  Thank you for being legendary, Coach Thornton!
Congratulations, Winners!  You truly embody the I.R.I.S.H. that we feel define the best of the best, and we hope you spend this prize on whatever brings you joy!