Detective Michael Bucciarelli started the Deputies and Kids Program at Rodgers Middle and Riverview High schools five years ago. He is looking for donations to keep the program growing for the more than 200 participants.

One of the area’s finest is asking for help in touching the lives of hundreds of Riverview students. Detective Michael Bucciarelli, former Resource Deputy at Rodgers Middle School, started the Deputies and Kids Program five years ago, offering a free after-school sports league at two local schools. He is now looking for help to make the program even more impactful.

Through Bucciarelli’s program, more than 200 students at Riverview High and Rodgers Middle schools have the opportunity to participate in a basketball or flag football league, depending on the time of year, with Bucciarelli and other local deputies.

“The program has allowed kids and deputies to interact in a non-law enforcement setting,” said Bucciarelli, who now works in the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office District III Latent Investigations office.

Inspired by a Cops and Kids program he participated in while growing up in Boston, which inspired him to pursue a career in law enforcement, Bucciarelli began the program in Riverview in 2014.

“Statistics show that with the use of these programs, students often have a higher school attendance rate, are better behaved and receive better grades,” he said, adding that students who are not interested in the athletic side of the program can still participate by setting up, running the scoreboard or helping out in other ways.

Last year, more than 215 students joined the program, which consists of teams participating in regular season, playoff and championship games at the two schools.

“Each year is better than the past,” he said. “Even just having something they enjoy that they can participate in after school is life-changing for some kids.”

In order to continue, Bucciarelli is asking for help from the public and local businesses.

“We are looking for donations which will help buying T-shirts, trophies and other items,” he said. “Some of these families do not have money for extras like shoes, shorts and equipment, so donations would be greatly appreciated.”

Anyone interested in making a donation can contact Bucciarelli at mbucciar@hcso.tampa.fl.us or Deputy Aaron Cater, the Resource Deputy at Riverview High School. The school is located at 11311 Boyette Rd. in Riverview and can be reached at 671-5011.