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A date with the mayor, a quick test, fezzes and songs

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By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 24, 2002


Dick Greco is well-known for giving tours of Tampa, but on Saturday I got a chance to tour Tampa Bay Sporting Clays with the mayor.

I'm certain it was no less informative.

On a cold and dreary day, Greco made his way to the various shooting stations in a golf cart, thanking each participant for coming out for the fifth annual Shoot Your Heart Out event, a fundraiser for Paint Your Heart Out Tampa.

Even with the rain, 20 of the 26 registered teams made it to Tampa Bay Sporting Clays in the heart of Pasco County. Between rounds of well-wishing, Greco gave this novice a crash course on shooting sports.

As a teen, Greco was a national champion and competed on various All-America teams. Although he didn't participate Saturday, he hit 49 of 50 targets in last year's event and remains ardent about the sport.

We also talked about Paint Your Heart Out, which takes place April 13. The program, now in its 14th year, typically results in 120 low-income, elderly homeowners having their houses repainted by volunteers. Greco recalled how touched he was when he discovered a recipient was an old Hillsborough High classmate, embarrassed to admit he needed help.

Herb Gold, a city consultant who has been with Paint Your Heart Out since the beginning, said the event gives many of the volunteers a chance to visit neighborhoods they seldom see, and many of the volunteers end up adopting the homeowners and helping them throughout the year.

Interested volunteers can call 258-4512.

If you encourage people to attend an event, it behooves you to show up yourself. So I resisted the sleep-inducing cadence of Saturday's raindrops and made it to the African-American Men's Health Forum by 7:30 a.m.

Thinking it was only a blood test, I signed up for the prostate exam. I thought DRE was the acronym for some kind of machine, but it is not, and while I would like to tell you it was quick and painless, I can only say it was quick.

Actually, it wasn't that bad, and the spirit of camaraderie made me realize we were all happy to see black men making health a priority. As we waited outside mobile clinics, men shared cover with perfect strangers. Only later did I discover the hulking man extending his umbrella for everyone was former Buccaneer defensive end Council Rudolph.

It would have been easy to complain about the weather, but as one gentleman said: "Every day is a great day. If you don't believe me, try skipping one."

That kind of summed up the third annual event, where men had the chance to attend seminars and get free screenings for prostate cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Although there were more than 300 volunteers Saturday, Florida Cancer Education Network chairman Bob Samuels said that if the Legislature does not provide funding through a pending bill, it may be impossible for his two-person staff to continue the forum.

Samuels said he also is surprised he has not received more vocal support from black politicians, particularly state Sen. Les Miller, himself a recovering prostate cancer patient.

The renovated Shriners International Headquarters on Rocky Point Drive will be dedicated today during a 3 p.m. ceremony. Look for Greco, County Commission Chairman Pat Frank, clowns and a sea of fezzes.

The headquarters has been in Tampa since 1979 but needed more room after expanding to 175 employees.

It was difficult to tell what my acquaintance Terry Moore was more excited about: hosting the '60s show on WMNF-FM 88.5 Saturday or attending the Sound of Music sing-along Friday night.

Moore got to co-host the show after making a donation to WMNF during a recent fund drive. He got to go to the sing-along because his reluctant wife and 8-year-old daughter didn't know any better.

Actually the sing-along, which has its final two shows today at the Tampa Theatre, is a riotous time for longtime fans of the movie -- a woman behind me dressed up like Liesl and really did look like she was 16 going on 17 -- and for people like me, who had never seen The Sound of Music.

While I'm pleased to finally have a favorite von Trapp family singer, I want you to know the sing-along is living proof that despite the efforts of law enforcement, there are a lot of illegal drugs in this city.

That's all I'm saying.

-- Ernest Hooper can be reached at 226-3406 or Hooper@sptimes.com.

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