Tim Tebow Makes a Surprise Visit in Southwest Florida
The University of Florida football star lifted the spirits of volunteers with Next Level Church.
If you were to ask members of Next Level Church in Lee County, they would no doubt tell you the smiles they received from stressed and supply-less residents were all the thanks they needed for their nonstop cleanup and relief efforts.
But a surprise late-afternoon visit from Tim Tebow sure didn’t hurt.
The Gators icon had been visiting shelters and hard-hit areas of Florida and wanted a chance to visit with volunteers. He couldn’t have found a better spot. Next Level had risen a 150-person army by Tuesday, dispatching them in teams across Lee County to provide relief (check back at gulfshorelife.com later today to read more about their efforts).
"I just think it’s awesome how many people have rallied together, not just here but all over the state of Florida to care for people and love people,” Tebow told Gulfshore Life shortly after his arrival. “I’ve spent a lot of time in shelters over the last 24 hours, and the amazing thing is people have a lot of devastation going on and they are afraid. There’s a lot of doubt and unknown, but the thing is they can still have hope in the midst of that because there are so many people that love them and are with them, and they know they don’t have to go through this alone.”
Church members told him about their efforts—everything from saying prayers with distraught storm victims to preparing meals for low-income neighborhoods to paddling boats through flooded communities to rushing out to buy blankets and pillows for those stuck in a middle school shelters and anxious for small comforts.
Tebow took time for photo opps and T-shirt signing and handshakes and hugs before Kyle Jackson, the executive teaching pastor, gathered the group into a circle around the athlete.
“You’re a once-in-a-generation leader,” Jackson told himbefore leading a prayer. “Football will pass, sports will pass, but leadership doesn’t pass.”
The crowd voiced a robust “amen” as Jackson concluded, and Tebow addressed the volunteers.
“We don’t always have time in your life to show how much people mean, but this is a chance to really show that. Right now is an opportunity to share what we believe in. ... I’m so thankful for you guys that you are helping your community, that you are going out of your way to love them, to care about them and to show that, hey, this is not something we just walk into a church and do on Sunday, it’s something we’re gonna live every day, especially on the hardest days.”
Church members gripped cell phone cameras and grinned.
“This is our Super Bowl,” says Kristin Hawker, who was volunteering with her 15-year-old daughter, Sarah. “This is what we are supposed to be doing.”