NFL star visits Big Cat Rescue

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Buccaneer Chris Simms Visits Big Cat Rescue Again June 19, 2007

In the second leg of Wild Adventures, his exploratory program with kids from The Children’s Home, Chris Simms took the group to Big Cat Rescue for an important lesson about pets and wild animals

Kids & Kitties

QB Chris Simms made a point of putting Big Cat Rescue on the Wild Adventures itinerary for the second straight year

Jun 19, 2007 –
Chris Simms loves cats of all stripes. During a recent visit to Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, for instance, he seemed particularly fond of the ocelots.Simms has kitties at home, too, a pair of housecats named Deuce and Rome. He is quite fond of them, as well.

Fortunately, Simms knows the difference between these two groups of felines. Big Cat Rescue wishes everyone did. Thanks to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, that message may have gotten through to a dozen young and impressionable minds last week.

A Wednesday trip to the hidden-in-broad-daylight wonder that is Big Cat Rescue served as the second leg in Simms’ Wild Adventures program with The Children’s Home. The program, now in its second year, combines two soft spots for the fifth-year NFL veteran – kids and animals – to create an educational and fun series of outings for a group of children that has suffered abuse, abandonment and neglect.The kids were given an in-depth tour of the expansive grounds, where wild cats of all kinds are housed in large, rambling enclosures mimicking their natural habitats. Among the sights were lions, tigers, lynx, cougars, leopards, caracals, servals, bobcats and many others, including the aforementioned ocelots. In virtually every case, the Big Cat Rescue tour guide spoke of the great harm that befalls these non-domestic cats when people try to turn them into pets.

” It’s a great chance to come out and see some animals you wouldn’t see out in Florida on a regular basis. I really enjoy it. It’s a great learning experience.”

As beautiful as these wild cats are, and as cuddly as they may seem when they are very young, they simply do not make good pets. Some grow too big and too dangerous, others have unbreakable habits that most people consider too filthy for their homes. They are, in a word, wild. Big Cat Rescue provides a dignified and comfortable existence for cats that are victims of the fur industry, of traveling “shows” and of drug dealers who view them as status symbols…but misguided pet owners are the most common source of abandoned big cats.Buccaneer Chris SimmsSome of the very behavior that delights a cat lover like Simms in his housecats isn’t quite as cute or entertaining on a larger or wilder scale.“People have this misconception that cats are mischievous and aloof, and they’re really not,” said Simms, explaining his feline affinity. “They’re great animals, extremely intelligent and very in-tune with nature. I think that’s what people don’t realize. They’re not maybe as dependent on humans as dogs are.”

Simms appreciated the tour guide’s main message on Wednesday, though he had heard it before. Big Cat Rescue is the only venue the Wild Adventures program will repeat this year after visiting in 2006, mostly because the Buc QB enjoyed it so much the first time around. Last week, he and the kids from The Children’s Home visited Lowry Park Zoo for a behind-the-scenes tour and next week they will head to Crystal River to swim with the manatees.

Tucked into a 40-acre sprawl that is surrounded by malls and restaurants just off busy Gunn Highway, the non-profit educational cat sanctuary is surprisingly easy to miss. But Simms has been back on his own several times and has told his teammates of the location whenever possible. Last year, he took wide receiver Joey Galloway with him to the sanctuary when Galloway’s parents were in town for a visit.

“I think Big Cat Rescue is my favorite,” said Simms of the various Wild Adventure stops. “First of all, I don’t think a whole lot of people know about this place. When I tell guys in the locker room about it they realize they drive by it every day. It’s a great chance to come out and see some animals you wouldn’t see out in Florida on a regular basis. I really enjoy it. It’s a great learning experience.”

During his latest visit on Wednesday, Simms admitted that he might enjoy the Big Cat Rescue trip even more than the kids in the Wild Adventures program do. That’s debatable, however, given their reactions to up-close encounters with cats like the 700-pound tiger named Shere Khan and the trio of bobcat adolescents who put on quite a wrestling show when the guide introduced a little raw meat to their habitat. As they had a week ago at the zoo, the kids peppered the Big Cat Rescue preservationists with a litany of questions about the animals.

“It’s a good experience for them, as well as me,” Simms allowed. “It’s good to get them out here. In this day and age, between Playstations and XBoxes, kids are reluctant to get out of the house as much as they need to. Hopefully, they’re getting a lot out of it. It seems like they’ve been really into it, here and at the zoo.”

At the zoo, the Wild Adventures kids learned about the natural behavior of a wide variety of animals. At Big Cat Rescue, they learned – hopefully – that wild cats are not pets. Next stop: The manatees.

Bucs QB Chris Simms

June 11, 2007

WHAT: Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Chris Simms and 12 youngsters from The Children’s Home in Tampa will explore Big Cat Rescue, the world’s largest non-profit accredited rescue facility for big cats, during their second “Wild Adventure” of 2007. Big Cat Rescue provides a permanent home for exotic cats that have been abused, abandoned, bred to be pets, retired from performing acts or rescued from being slaughtered. Sixteen of the 35 species of wild cats, many of which are endangered, live at the sanctuary.

Simms developed the “Wild Adventures” program in 2006 out of his love for children, nature and animals. In the program’s inaugural year, Simms escorted children to Big Cat Rescue, Busch Gardens and the Florida Aquarium. On June 6, Simms and the children visited Lowry Park Zoo during their first “Wild Adventure” of 2007.

The Children’s Home operates a variety of child-focused and family- centered programs throughout the Tampa Bay area. Since its inception in 1892, the organization has placed 6,000 children with loving families and assisted more than 25,000 children who have suffered abuse, abandonment or neglect. For more information on The Children’s Home, visit

WHO: Buccaneers quarterback Chris Simms and youth from The Children’s Home

WHERE: Big Cat Rescue 12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625 WHEN: Wednesday, June 13, 2007 3 p.m.


2006 Bucs’ Quarterback Brings Kids, Big Cats Together

By JONATHAN KAMINSKY The Tampa Tribune/Published: Jul 8, 2006

In the midday heat on a recent afternoon, Chris Simms stood admiring a reclining leopard with an unyielding stare.

“I’d love to get in the cage with him,” the young quarterback said, clearly relishing a wrestling match.

“It could get me in trouble,” he added with a sidelong glance, as if Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach Jon Gruden might be hiding somewhere near Big Cat Rescue off Gunn Highway.

But coaches and teammates were nowhere to be seen. Instead, Simms was awaiting the arrival of a dozen youngsters eager to accompany him on a tour of the roughly 45-acre feline sanctuary.

It was the first of three trips Simms planned to take with the youngsters from The Children’s Home, a group home for abused youth, over the next month. They will also visit the Florida Aquarium and Busch Gardens.

The outings are Simms’ way of giving back to the community, he said, by combining two of his favorite things: kids and animals.

In short order, the children filed out of a large van, and the tour commenced. As the heat poured down, Scott Lope, Big Cat Rescue director of operations and tour guide, led the group from one fenced-in enclosure to the next.

Reactions to the various cats were mixed.

“That is so cute! That is soooo cute!” said one girl, after spotting three young pumas lingering in their cage.

Another girl had a different take on another feline: “The lion was ugly.”

The overall feeling toward the cats was one of enthusiasm, summed up by one boy explaining how he liked seeing “how they live and survive and stuff and what they do for life.”

But no one was more engaged than Simms.

“Is this a puma?” Lope asked the group, quizzing them as they stood before one of the more than 150 big cats on the premises.

“Yes,” said Simms.

“Is it a mountain lion?”

“Yes,” responded Simms.

“Is it a panther?”

“Yes,” Simms said again.

The quarterback had been paying attention: The three are interchangeable.

Simms also spent part of the afternoon snapping feline photos with his cell phone to send to his wife.

“She wanted to come,” said the recent father. “But with the baby and all …”

Soon, the tour was complete, the appreciative kids were piled back into their van, and Simms was making plans with Lope for a return visit with his family.

What did he think of Big Cat Rescue?

“I think I liked it more than the kids did,” he said.

Buccaneer Chris Simms Visits Big Cat Rescue

Chris Simms’ new Wild Adventures program kicked off on Friday with an educational trip to Big Cat Rescue, home to cheetahs, lions, lynxes, bobcats and many other feline wonders

Cat Fancy

Chris Simms has two cats at home, but they’re nothing like what he saw on Friday at Big Cat Rescue

July 02, 2006 – On Friday, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Chris Simms and a dozen young friends found an exciting way to kick off the long Fourth of July holiday weekend.Simms and a group of kids from The Children’s Home toured Big Cat Rescue in Tampa for the first of three educational trips that will make up the signal-caller’s new Wild Adventures program.

Why Big Cat Rescue? Simms developed the Wild Adventures program out of his love for nature, animals and the outdoors. He’s no stranger to felines either, as an owner of two domestic tabby cats, Deuce and Rome. While those two relaxed back in the air conditioning of the Simms home, the quarterback and his excited co-adventurers gladly headed out into the heat to spend time with a wide variety of Deuce and Rome’s less tame cousins.

There are about 150 cats at the rescue facility, many of whom are retired from the entertainment industry, such as the circus. Others started out as pets before their owners realized the animals were not suitable as domestic companions. Big Cat Rescue houses many breeds of cats, including lions, tigers, ocelots, cheetahs, Florida bobcats, lynxes, binturongs and mountain lions. The kids in the Wild Adventures program were awed by them all, as was Simms.“It’s fun to come out here and see these beautiful animals,” said Simms. “I love cats. I’m a big cat person. Cats are so pure to nature, they really interest me.”

” It’s fun to come out here and see these beautiful animals. I love cats. I’m a big cat person. Cats are so pure to nature, they really interest me.”

While at the facility, Simms and his group learned about each of the different breeds of cat, their eating and sleeping habits and ways the cats behave in the wild. Simms and the kids grew especially fond of Cheetaro, a cheetah who loved to show off by climbing up a tree and stretching out on a limb. The children were wowed when a Big Cat staff member placed a piece of meat on a stick and held it up high through the cage for Bengali, a Bengal tiger. The facility’s staffer was about six feet tall but Bengali, standing up on his back legs, towered over the man.“I had a great time at the Big Cat Rescue, and I know the kids loved it as well,” Simms said. “It was definitely a good learning experience for all of us.”On the next Wild Adventures voyage, Simms and the kids will experience the Fantasy Island Eco-Tour at the Florida Aquarium. The Wild Adventures program wraps up at the end of July, just before the start of the Buccaneers’ training camp, with a behind-the-scenes tour of Busch Gardens and the animals that live there.

This was also covered by The Tampa Tribune, Channel 8, Channel 10 and Channel 13

This was also posted on the CBS sponsored NFL official site:

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