ST. PETERSBURG -- Joe Maddon's annual Thanksmas goodwill tour begins Friday night in Tampa, Fla., kicking off the eighth consecutive year for the initiative created by the Rays manager.
"It's kind of amazing that it's our eighth year now," Maddon said. "I remember the first year we did it, and I severely burned my foot with boiling water [while cooking]. [I] had to rush back to the Trop [for treatment]. And the growth of it and how people have really adopted getting on board with it. It continues to grow. That's kind of gratifying."
Friday night's fundraiser at the 717 South restaurant located 717 S. Howard Ave. serves as the starting line for this year's events. The restaurant will prepare Maddon's special Thanksmas meal while Rays players and coaches will be guest servers.
After Friday night's event, Maddon will prepare a traditional Italian/Polish holiday feast for hundreds of needy citizens in the Tampa region. Maddon will purchase the food, and with the help of Rays coaches and staff, cook and serve the meals at five shelters Monday through Wednesday.
Over the past seven years, Maddon's Thanksmas has served approximately 6,000 individuals in need and provided many of those individuals with clothing and shoes.
This year's Thanksmas will include Salvation Army Shelters in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Bradenton, the Homeless Emergency Project in Clearwater and the Sallie House in St. Petersburg.
Once the events run their course in the Tampa area, Maddon will return to his native Pennsylvania home for his Hazleton Integration Project's Third Annual Christmas Celebration, which will include a series of events to promote his Hazleton Integration Project (HIP). The project's mission is to create opportunities for economically disadvantaged children to participate in a variety of no cost or low cost educational, cultural and athletic activities.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com.