Tom Brady’s most meaningful quarterback sneaks of 2022 were mostly unseen.
The recently retired Bucs quarterback and his two youngest children would arrive in his pickup at the four-story facility on Armenia Avenue in Tampa two or three times a month. All Brady requested was anonymity, or as much as could be afforded the globe’s most well-known football player.
“He would pick (his kids) up at school, and you’d see his pickup truck, he would pull into our lot, and there he was,” said Sherry Silk, who runs the place. “He would always wear a baseball cap. Sometimes people would recognize him and they would ask him for an autograph; not too many, and I didn’t allow the staff to do any of that. And he just came in and did his thing.”
In return, Brady, 13-year-old Ben and 10-year-old Vivian would assist the tenants any way they could — walking them, cleaning them, or even just socializing with them. Benevolence in the shadows, attracting zero buzz.
But lots of barks.
“Sometimes it would be once a week; sometimes it would be every other week,” Silk said. “It just depended on his schedule. Vivian and Ben were almost always with him. Sometimes his other son (15-year-old Jack), would come, too. And they would spend an hour and a half, two hours, literally hanging out and helping the animals. It was just so rewarding to see that.”
The term “dog days” can have strikingly different connotations. The Bucs’ 2022 season was littered with them, however they are meant. For fans, they were brutal. For Brady and his kids, they were blissful.
In arguably the most challenging season, personally and professionally, of his 23-year NFL career, Brady found refuge at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay.
Bucs safety Logan Ryan, a longtime animal-welfare activist who has his own rescue foundation, served as the conduit that connected Brady to the humane society, a place for quality time with his kids, for decompression, for service.
And few people knew about it.
“For the most part, nobody even knew that they were here,” said Ornella Varchi, the humane society’s chief development officer.
“And they just truly were here to spend time with the animals, because both of the families just adore animals. So they really, really wanted to help. It was not for appearances, and I think in part, that’s why they also liked coming here, because they did have privacy and they could just spend time volunteering and giving their time and energy to the animals.”
One can’t swing a towel in the Bucs’ locker room without hitting a player who has profusely given back to the bay area. Whether it’s receiver Mike Evans’ work with families in need, center Ryan Jensen’s assistance of military veterans or defensive lineman William Gholston’s crusades against cancer and hunger, altruism remains as synonymous with this franchise as pewter.
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Brady, whose philanthropy has been wide-ranging, chose his most clandestine gesture for a nonprofit local pillar (established in 1912) that annually welcomes more than 13,000 animals of all kinds.
“It’s an enormous amount of animals,” Varchi said. “Some of them need to go into foster homes. During the summer, which is the height of our kitten season, actually we had 300, 400 kittens just in foster homes. So we truly need so many volunteers.”
Brady caught wind of the organization’s efforts and needs when he saw Ryan participating with Silk and other humane society representatives during a promotion about pet adoption last summer at the Bucs’ AdventHealth Training Center.
“And Tom happened to see us talking with his friend, obviously Logan,” Silk said. “(Ryan) was talking about his rescue pit bull, and I guess (Brady) reached out to (Ryan’s) wife and said, ‘I want my kids to be part of that, too. It looks really cool.’ Then Ashley (Ryan’s wife) reached out to us, and the rest is history. He started coming.”
Vivian had an immediate attachment to the kittens and would regularly bottle-feed the underage ones, Silk said. Ben often walked dogs behind the facility with a trainer. Their dad chipped in wherever needed.
“Literally they worked,” Silk said. “They didn’t mind getting dirty, and they just kept it on the down low.”
Brady, 45, announced his retirement from the NFL on Feb. 1. Shortly thereafter, he adopted two Siamese kittens from the society, taking both to his home in Miami.
“He actually picked them up Monday,” Silk said.
Ryan, 32, can be a free agent next month but has assured Silk that his family will continue to volunteer. Meantime, the staffers continue pinching themselves over the scenes of the last several months: Two NFL stars, one a global celebrity, finding peace, fulfillment and family time in their little nook of the world.
“They’re heroes in my book because, man, they could be anywhere else in the world they want to be at, and they came here,” Varchi said. “So I think the world of both of them.”
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.
Humane Society seeks help
The Humane Society of Tampa Bay, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, annually houses more than 13,000 animals at its shelter at 3607 N Armenia Ave., Tampa. To volunteer, call (813) 291-7357, or email email@example.com.
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