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Rays walk the walk for Children's Dream Fund

Players, coaches take part in ninth annual Rays on the Runway charity event

ST. PETERSBURG -- Chris Archer serenaded an audience member. Kevin Kiermaier showed off his Jay-Z impersonation. Fourteen Tampa Bay Rays, plus their wives and girlfriends, took to the fashion runway. Kids' dreams came true.

Not a bad Wednesday night at St. Petersburg's Renaissance Vinoy Resort.

Several hours after the Rays beat the Pirates, 5-1, at Tropicana Field, the team joined with the Children's Dream Fund to put on the ninth annual Rays on the Runway event.

Members of the Rays, their significant others, and eight special "dream children" modeled fashions by Tommy Bahama and Penelope T Boutique to raise money and make dreams come true for children with life-threatening illnesses.

"It's just nice to be a part of an organization that raises so much money to impact the youth," said Archer, a second-time participant. "This changes children's lives. Gives them hope. Gives them the opportunity to overcome pretty huge obstacles. So if I can just do my small part and be here, show up, wear some clothes, walk down a stage -- that's all I have to do in order to help generate more revenue for that? I'm in."

The players and coaches who participated in the event included Archer, Kiermaier, Brad Boxberger, Alex Cobb, Logan Forsythe, Matt Joyce, James Loney, Jake McGee, Matt Moore, Sean Rodriguez, Kirby Yates, Ben Zobrist and Derek Shelton.

Since the program began, Rays on the Runway has raised more than $275,000 to help the Children's Dream Fund make dreams come true for seriously ill children living on Florida's west coast.

"I think it's important, number one, for us to give back to the community any way we can, but also because of the situation that these children and their parents are in -- just to see the joy on their face and be able to spend a day with them," Shelton said. "To see the way they look at the players and they look at the event -- I mean, it's cool. To bring a smile to a child's face is what it's all about."

Shelton and his wife, Allison, have been involved in the event every year since Shelton joined the Rays' coaching staff, and they said it's something they'll likely always participate in. On Wednesday, they walked down the runway with Julio, the youngest of the eight dream children.

"It's for a great cause, and the main reason I like it is because we usually get to walk with a child, where this is like a wish or a dream for them," Allison Shelton said. "This is a huge moment, so to be a part of it for them is really special."

The fashion show was the centerpiece of the evening, but there were events on either side of it as well. The night began with a meet-and-greet reception, where attendees could take pictures with the Rays and ask for autographs. And after the show, there was a live auction to raise additional money for the foundation.

There were some traditional auction items, like player-themed gift baskets provided by Cobb, Loney and Zobrist. But there were also unorthodox ones -- like a personal serenade by Archer and a Jay-Z impression by Kiermaier.

Cobb got to auction off a gift basket, but did not get to walk with a child down the runway.

"They don't trust us," he and his fiancee, Kelly Reynolds, joked.

David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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