By Michelle Caceres
Thirteen-year-old Jake Dela Cruz never in his wildest dreams imagined that one day he would don a superhero cape and run onto the field at a Tampa Bay Storm arena football game.
That’s what happened, though.
More than 100 children were honored at the 17th annual St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital Kids Are Heroes event at the Tampa Bay Times Forum during a Tampa Bay Storm game. At halftime, the announcer called out the names of 11 overall winners who ran onto the field through a path made up of Tampa Bay Storm cheerleaders to collect a special trophy.
Dela Cruz, the winner of the 9 to 12 year-old category, flew onto the field to collect his award for using his time and talents as a mobile DJ owner to help raise money for The American Cancer Society. He has served as DJ at many of its fundraising events leading up to Relay for Life.
Dela Cruz starting his philanthropic efforts after his grandmother succumbed to the disease when he was 9-years-old.
“My mother lived with us during her last months and he witnessed what cancer did to her,” said Jon, his father. “Since then he’s offered his DJ service to charity events.”
The program, sponsored by St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Tampa Bay Storm, recognizes children between the ages of 5 and 18 for doing the right thing.
Before the game, children received certificates, medals of honor, superhero capes, goody bags and a celebration fit for a “Super Hero”.
Since 1996, the Kids Are Heroes program has recognized more than 1,600 children between the ages of 5 and 18 from Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties who have performed heroic deeds, or displayed acts of selflessness and demonstrated good citizenship. Winners are selected by a panel of judges made up of current and past pediatric patients of St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital.
In spite of his newfound “Super Hero” fame, Dela Cruz says he keeps his feet firmly planted on earth.
“I don’t do what I do for the recognition,” he said. “I am glad that I can take the skills that God has given me and use them to help others in honor of my grandmother.”
Nominations for the 18th Annual Kids Are Heroes program will be accepted in the fall. To learn more about the event, visit www.sjbhealth.org.