Gronkowski got word of a fire that broke out May 16 at Blake High School in Tampa. The fire destroyed an athletics storage shed filled with nearly all of the school's football equipment. That included pads, field markers, pylons, tackling dummies and other game-day equipment -- worth approximately $11,000, according to Tampa Fire Rescue -- and the loss devastated the program.
Gronkowski and the Buccaneers Foundation reached out to the school to see how they could help.
"Hey Blake High School - we heard about the fire that destroyed your storage shed full of football equipment. Guess what?? The Gronk Nation Youth Foundation and the @BucsFoundation are replacing it all!"— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) June 9, 2020
📽️: @RobGronkowski pic.twitter.com/zxaW9jPGw7
"To the Blake High School Yellow Jackets, you're getting a brand-new storage unit and new football equipment to replace everything that was lost," Gronkowski said in a video posted by the Bucs on Twitter.
Blake High School will get a replacement for the 10-by-20-foot shed and all necessary football equipment. The Gronk Nation Youth Foundation and Bucs Foundation split the cost.
"This fire was devastating to our student-athletes after an already tumultuous past few months," Blake High Principal Jesse Salters said in a statement. "This donation from the Gronk Nation Youth Foundation is a generous gesture from our brand-new Buccaneer, and neighbor, Rob Gronkowski. Thank you to Gronk and the Bucs for this donation, which will allow Blake High to replace all its football equipment and help our athletes get back on the field."
The school district planned to replace the equipment, but this donation allows those funds to be used elsewhere in what is expected to be a year of budget cuts due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"This generous donation will help our student-athletes return to the field with confidence after the fire destroyed their practice and game-day equipment," Lanness Robinson, director of athletics for Hillsborough County Public Schools, said in a statement. "We are incredibly thankful for community partners like Rob Gronkowski and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is more than just a donation; it shows our children their local sports community is there for them no matter what."
Kavon Willingham is a senior right tackle/defensive end at Blake High School. He told ESPN, "When I first heard the news [about the fire], I was shocked because I was working out an hour prior, before it happened, near Blake. I was in disbelief, thinking to myself, 'It's going to be hard for us this season with no equipment.'"
Willingham was on his way home from the grocery store when he saw a report about the donation on his phone.
"I'm thrilled ... being a Bucs fan, Gronk not knowing much about Tampa but still donating was touching," he said. 'It shows he cares about the youth."
A juvenile confessed to starting the fire and was arrested last week. The person, whose name was not released given the age, was charged with two counts of second-degree arson and one count of burglary, Tampa Fire Rescue said.