The Lightning Community Heroes Program is the signature philanthropic initiative of the Lightning Foundation and has been lauded for its innovative contributions throughout the sports community. In 2011, Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and his family launched the program as a collaboration with the Vinik Family Foundation and the Lightning Foundation to celebrate deserving Heroes and distribute funding to non-profits throughout the Tampa Bay community.

At each of the Lightning's 41 regular season and playoff home games for the past ten seasons, the Lightning Community Hero program has been honored to celebrate a local Hero and donate $50,000 to a non-profit charity of their choice. Celebrating our Community Heroes has become a beloved signature moment at our home games. And to date, the program has honored more than 590 Heroes and distributed more than $31.87M in 1160 donations to 762 unique non-profits.

Honoring Heroes and a Commitment to Community

LIGHTNING COMMUNITY HERO PROGRAM

Since the launch of the Community Hero program in 2011, it has been our honor to recognize grassroots Heroes whose noble efforts make a positive impact by awarding them with a Lightning Community Hero award. Honorees' rich history of volunteerism and good works are celebrated via an in-game video that illustrates how the Hero is using his or her life to help others less fortunate, followed by the Foundation presenting the Hero with a $50,000 grant designated to the charities of their choice.

The Community Hero program has become a beloved part of our game presentation, philanthropic programming and the diversity of all that is good and great about Tampa Bay. Through twelve seasons of the program to date, we have celebrated 590 Heroes and distributed more than $31.87M in 1160 donations to 762 unique non-profits throughout the Tampa Bay area.

Before the 2021-22 season, following the program's first ten impactful years, Jeff and his family generously pledged a $10 million donation to continue the Hero program for another five years. This donation aims to expand the opportunities for non-profits to apply for funding, ensuring maximum impact and participation. To continue celebrating grassroots Heroes who volunteer at local non-profits, non-profits may now apply directly for $50,000 in grant funding to support specific projects and programs, all while highlighting an internal Hero at the non-profit who champions the grant for which the non-profit is applying.

To be eligible for consideration, each nomination must meet the following minimum criteria
  • Nominator must be at least 13 years old
  • All nominations must be submitted online at tampabaylightning.com/heroes
  • A nominator may only nominate one Hero throughout the season. If a nominator submits multiple nominations, only the first submission will be considered.
  • Nominator must provide the contact information, including email address and telephone number for the nominated Hero
  • Nominator must live in one of the following seven Florida counties: Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, or Sarasota
  • Nominator must submit nomination in either English or Spanish
  • Nominator will be required to complete a publicity release, should his or her Hero be selected as a Lightning Community Hero
Hero eligibility criteria

A Hero may be nominated several times by multiple people, but please remember quality over quantity. To be eligible for selection as a Lightning Community Hero, a nominated Hero must meet the following minimum criteria:

  • Must live in one of the following seven Florida counties: Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, or Sarasota
  • Must complete a publicity release as a condition to selection
  • Must submit the required information regarding the organization to which he or she would like the funds to be awarded
Organization criteria

To be eligible for selection as a designated organization to receive an award of $50,000, the organization must meet the following minimum criteria:

  • 501( c)(3) tax-exempt organization with solid local operations, highly regarded organizational and board leadership, and in good financial standing
  • Headquartered and providing services within the following Florida counties: Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, or Sarasota. A local chapter of a national organization headquartered within such counties will be eligible
  • Be representative of the cause for which the Lightning Community Hero was nominated (but not necessarily an employee of the organization)
  • Have a track record of quality service delivery and demonstrated results
  • Demonstrated fiscal responsibility and long term sustainability of programs
  • Be willing to enter into a contract with the Lightning Foundation agreeing that (i) the organization will use the awarded funds as mutually agreed upon, (ii) the Lightning Foundation will have the right to verify that the awarded funds were so used, (iii) the organization will return any part of the awarded funds that were not so used within 12 months after the initial disbursement of the awarded funds, and (iv) it will assist the Lightning Foundation to do a follow-up story/vignette on how the funds impacted the organization for publication or promotion.
General Rules

To be eligible for selection as a designated organization to receive an award of $50,000, the organization must meet the following minimum criteria:

  • All nominations become the property of the Lightning Foundation and will not be returned
  • The Lightning Foundation reserves the right to use and edit the nomination in its sole discretion for use in publications or promotion
  • Nominated Heroes may be contacted to provide additional information and have their information verified
  • Submissions will be judged from among all eligible nominations received
  • If more than one nomination is received for a particular Hero nominee, the Lightning Foundation in its sole discretion may designate one of the nominators as the nominator to be recognized at the game presentation for the nominated Lightning Community Hero
Factors to be considered in selection process

The following is a non-exclusive list of factors to be considered by the Lightning Community Advisory Committee and the Lightning Foundation Board of Directors in selecting the Lightning Community Heroes:

  • The degree to which the Hero has been a catalyst for a cause that meets basic human needs or enriches the lives of others
  • The degree to which the Hero has exhibited dedication and selflessness
  • The degree to which the Hero has made a special and significant impact on individuals, families, or the community-at-large
  • The degree to which the Hero has gone “above and beyond” to serve and inspire others
  • The degree to which the Nominator is able to convey the overall significance and impact of the Hero’s work
Tips & tricks for your nomination

Many nominators ask us for advice about how to write a Hero nomination, about what our committee members are looking for when they make their selections. Below are a few suggestions to help get you started so you can get an idea of the types of nominations that have been successful thus far.

Please feel free to contact Sarah Costello or Elizabeth Frazier with any questions you may have. Happy writing!

Advice from Community Advisory Committee Members:

  • There is no one definition of what makes a Hero, but most tend to be unsung Heroes who are quietly doing amazing work for the improvement of our community
  • Please describe your Hero in a compelling manner that we can in turn tell to our fans at a game. Make sure to give details about how your Hero has dedicated his or her time to helping others less fortunate. Inspire us so we can inspire our fans!
  • Please include as many facts and supportive data as possible, including how many people your Hero has impacted or how many hours of service he or she has committed
  • Please emphasize the attributes or details that you believe help distinguish your Hero from other Heroes who are being nominated. Focus on what makes he or she different and special
  • If your Hero has done a significant body of volunteer community work over a long period of time as opposed to a smaller duration of time, please include that.
  • Does your Hero have a clear passion to pay it back? Please include details about why he or she is so committed to giving back. We want to understand what makes your Hero the amazing person that you believe he or she is

For a full list of the 2023-24 Community Hero class, click the link below.

Hero Class of 2022-23
Hero Class of 2021-22
Hero Class of 2020-21
Hero Class of 2019-20