By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Tim Tebow turned a disappointing evening into one with lifetime memories for a group of Special Olympic athletes from Charlotte County on Wednesday.
After rain washed away the game between the Charlotte Stone Crabs and St. Lucie Mets, Tebow met with about 20 special needs athletes and their families at Charlotte Sports Park.
“It’s more important than anything else that we’d be doing tonight,” Tebow said of the session. “It’s more important than baseball. One of the biggest things in my heart – my calling you could say – is to help fight for people who can’t fight for themselves.”
Tebow posed for photos with the athletes and signed photos, shirts and baseballs for about 10 minutes. The time spent with the former Heisman Trophy winner and All-American quarterback at Florida and in the NFL, isn’t something the local athletes likely won’t soon forget.
“It was super exciting (to get the phone call),” said Tera Sylvester, the Charlotte County Special Olympics director. “Every athlete I called or their parents said ‘Yes! Yes!’ I even had some of them rearrange their work schedule to meet him. They were all so excited.”
Sylvester said she was first contacted by Stone Crabs general manager Jared Forma to organize the event, but Forma credits Tebow with the idea.
“We were talking last time he was in town and he was beyond excited about the idea,” Forma said. “He’s been so good to our fans and our community, and I know helping special needs individuals is a passion of his.
“It’s really what we’re here for – to make a positive impact on everyone who lives in our community. You don’t always have the kind of opportunity to make that kind of impact.”
Tebow was thankful for Forma and the Stone Crabs to provide the opportunity.
“To be able to try to put a smile on their face means a lot to me, and that’s something I strive to do whenever I can,” Tebow said. “Jared was nice enough to let it happen, and it was awesome.”
Tebow and the Mets were still in town on Thursday for the final time this season to conclude a three-game series with a doubleheader.