Invading the city of Tampa isn’t just a hobby. It’s a way of life for this second-generation pirate.
Ken Lane is part of Ye Mystic Krewe, a major component of the Gasparilla celebration throughout Tampa Bay, and he loves every minute of trying to snatch the keys to the city from the mayor.
But as he climbs onto the elevator at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital on the St. Petersburg side of the bay with a fist full of beads and a booty bag filled with cannon balls, he remembers why he is really part of this crazy tradition for the 22nd year.
Decked out in a bright blue pirate shirt, loads of beads and a black hat, Lane steels his emotions for the sweet faces and the laughter among the very, very sick children that he is often asked to just peek in and wave to.
Lane’s group of pirates has been assigned to the seventh floor, so he knows many of these kids will have cancer. He’s prepared to throw some beads, let out a few “arrrgggs” and basically commit whatever crazy antics are required to get a laugh, a smile or even a few rolled eyes.
He’s all in as he is every January for this visit. It sticks with him, and he typically can’t wait to return.
“We just want to help them forget why they hurt for a while,” he explains. “They get so much out of these visits—but so do we. I come back every year. It’s funny, you walk in, and as much as you appreciate this hospital, you just want it to be empty.”
An empty hospital with no spoils from sick children to be had. That would be the best invasion of this pirate’s long and hearty career.