Derrick Brooks among 6 to be honored by JNF

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers legend Derrick Brooks will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for his off-field good works and five other community activists will be honored with prestigious awards when the Jewish National Fund (JNF) hosts its annual Tampa Tree of Life Award Dinner on Tuesday, April 25. The dinner begins at 6 p.m. at the new Bryan Glazer Family JCC, 522 N. Howard Ave., Tampa.


In addition to the honor for Brooks, JNF will present its Tree of Life Award to Tom and Janette Carey, Dr. Barry Levine and Dr. Robert Lewenson. JNF will also honor Monica DiGiovanni with the Lawrence D. Wasser Award.


Tree of Life honorees

The Tree of Life™ Award is a humanitarian award given in recognition of outstanding community involvement, dedication to the cause of American-Israeli friendship, and devotion to the peace and security of human life.

Tom Carey is the founding partner of Carey Leisure & Neal, while wife Janette is a co-founder and president of Client Legal Funding and co-founder of CSC Enterprises. Since the death of his wife, Joni to a drunk driver, Tom Carey has been an outspoken advocate, serving as the state chairman and Pinellas County president for MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). He also has served on numerous boards including Morton Plant Hospital, Pinellas/Pasco Boy Scouts of America, and the Pinellas County Center for Crime Victims. Prior to her business career, Janette Carey was a professional tennis player, participating on the world circuit until the age of 20.


Dr. Barry Levine has been an active member of the Tampa Bay community for many years including as a longtime supporter of JNF. Owner of Florida Health Care News, Levine has been a major sponsor of Doctors for Israel. A supporter of the arts, Levine served as chairman of the board of the Loft Theatre before its assimilation by the Straz Center for the Performing Arts and later served on the Straz’s board of trustees and executive board.


Dr. Robert Lewenson, a graduate of the Illinois College of Optometry, is the founder of Optical Outlets which has grown to be one of the largest optical chains in the country. He supports many organizations, including Jewish National Fund, Israel Bonds, Israel Air Force Foundation, and AIPAC. Lewenson also travels to the Dominican Republic yearly to provide free eye exams and glasses to locals.


Lifetime Achievement Award

JNF’s award for lifetime achievement is bestowed on an exceptional and senior community leader, who, throughout their life, has become a symbol of Jewish and non-Jewish philanthropy and tzedakah through giving back to their community.


An NFL Hall of Famer widely considered one of the best linebackers in NFL history, honoree Derrick Brooks was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first round of the 1995 draft and he remained with the team for his entire career.


“I am humbled and appreciative of this award from JNF,” said Brooks.


“This award represents the impact of Derrick Brooks Charities ( in our communities alongside community service organizations that impact people worldwide.” Among the myriad youth programs supported by the foundation is the Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School, an Arated charter school in Hillsborough County.


Recognized as often for his hard work in the community as he is for his hard hits on the football field, Brooks has been the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the 2000 Walter Payton/NFL Man of the Year award for his philanthropic endeavors, the 2003 Bart Starr Award, the 2004 Bryon “Whizzer” White Award, and the 2008 JB Award through the NFL Players Association.


He also has received numerous community awards for his work and dedication to the community, including Citizen of the Year from the Tampa Sports Club, the Lee Roy Selmon Lifetime Achievement Award from the Tampa Sports Commission, the Community Hero Award from the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Community Champion Award from the Boys and Girls Clubs.


Wasser award

JNF established the Lawrence D. Wasser Humanitarian Award to commemorate the extraordinary work of Lawrence “Larry” D. Wasser, an outstanding colleague who worked diligently and tirelessly in the community. This prestigious honor is awarded annually to a professional that has exhibited the superior traits and attributes of leadership excellence.


Monica DiGiovanni, this year’s recipient of the Wasser Award, is a registered representative with Development Corporation for Israel/ Israel Bonds. During her tenure in the Tampa Bay regional office, she has established a Women’s Division, a Double Mitzvah Program, and an engaging B’nai Mitzvah Youth Program. A graduate in the second class with females at Johns Hopkins University with a bachelor and masters degrees, her favorite causes include Florida West Ballet, Hadassah, Jewish Federation, Junior League, JNF, and NCJW.



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