Jonny Gomes figures he's had enough life experiences to last several lifetimes.

The Tampa Bay outfielder suffered a heart attack as the result of a pinched valve the day before Christmas in 2002. The California native was hospitalized for five days after an angioplasty procedure to open the valve.

Gomes was also involved in a car accident that claimed the life of his boyhood friend, Adam Westcott. Gomes has the tattoo "AW" on his right bicep to honor Westcott.

Those experiences have helped shape Gomes. He's got a sense of mortality that drives him to help people in need.

Gomes started reaching out to youngsters while playing for the Rays' top farm team, Triple-A Durham of the International League. There he visited children at a local hospital affiliated with Duke University.

"I saw how far one hour [of goodwill] would stretch," he said. "The look on the kids' faces and how appreciative the people were [made it an easy decision]."

He said that experience motivated him to become more involved in the lives of others.

"Mostly the kids," Gomes said prior to Opening Day in Baltimore. "I do a lot of stuff for the kids and try to help them out in a positive way. I try to help unfortunate kids and sick kids."

His list of off-the-field work is impressive:

In November of 2007, he gave instructions, signed autographs and donated memorabilia in Casa Grande High's fourth annual Camp for a Cure in his hometown of Petaluma, Calif. The event raised nearly $25,000 for the American Cancer Society and the Lupus Foundation of America.

Gomes sponsors nine Little League teams in his hometown.

He has been involved in the Boys & Girls Club, and, during the 2006 season, students in Florida registered for the chance to take Jonny to School. The winner was honors student Shamika Smith, then 13, and Gomes spent the day with her at a middle school in Tampa. Gomes also took part in "Shop with a Jock" at a Tampa Bay store last August as children from a Boys & Girls Club were able to take part in a $100 shopping spree.

Gomes was honored Feb. 11, 2006, with "Jonny Gomes Day" in his hometown. He signed autographs, spoke to players and received an official proclamation from David Glass, the mayor. At a banquet that night, his high school -- Casa Grande -- retired his jersey, No. 1.

Gomes said his high school coach died from lip cancer. "The personal experience of watching him battle cancer" led him to get involved with Camp for a Cure.

-- Red Line Editorial