WTSP: Ryan Nece Working Harder Than Ever for Tampa Bay

TAMPA, Florida – What started with a handful of envelopes and the message to “Pay it Forward” from a former NFL star has grown exponentially in just over a year.

Through his “Power of Giving” charity, former Bucs star Ryan Nece gave out envelopes filled with $55 to approximately 70 people last June. He said he’s been blown away by the ways the recipients “paid it forward” and how it has continued to trickle down. Nece, who played for the Bucs from 2002-2007, last played for the Detroit Lions, wearing No. 55, in 2008.

“Looking back, you can see the lives we’ve been able to touch,” Nece said. “At any given moment, on any given day, each of us has the opportunity to do random acts of generosity and we make our world a better place.”

Inspired by one recipient who used social networking to turn $55 into $16,000 in donations for Wheels of Success last year, Nece is now partnering with the Tampa-based charity to pay much bigger dividends.

Wheels of Success helps get cars to families without transportation in Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco counties. The families are carefully vetted so the vehicles are put to good use: transporting children, getting to and from better jobs, and traveling to higher education opportunities.

“That was one of the reasons we really wanted to partner,” said Wheels of Success Founder and CEO Susan Jacobs. “That’s both of our philosiphies – paying it forward.”

The seven-year-old charity gave away 20 cars last year on Labor Day but Nece is pushing Wheels of Success to a much loftier goal this year. He’s helping them give away 55 cars in a massive project this Labor Day.

“If we help (these families),” Nece said, “we know they’re going to be able to raise money, better their families, and those families are going to be able to go out and better our communities.”

The families for this year’s giveaway have already been chosen, but Wheels of Success now has less than two weeks to reach their goal of 55 vehicles. Currently, they have 45 lined up.

The charities have donation boxes at numerous local businesses and Nece encourages Tampa Bay to step up and donate in any way they can. Whether it be 55 cents or a used vehicle no longer needed.

“People are choosing their donations more carefully,” he said, “but with our charities, they know it’s staying in the community and going toward making Tampa Bay a better place.”

Follow 10 Connects reporter Noah Pransky on Twitter at www.twitter.com/noahpransky, Facebook at www.facebook.com/noahpransky, or on his Sports Business blog, Shadow of the Stadium.