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Applicant Criteria

To be eligible for consideration as a Lightning Community Hero of Tomorrow, an applicant must meet the following minimum criteria:

  • Applicant must be at least 13 years old, and no older than 25 years old
  • Applicant must be currently enrolled in a middle school, high school, community college, college or university.
  • Application must be submitted online at "
  • Applicant must provide contact information, including email address and telephone number, and complete the application in full.
  • Applicant must maintain his or her primary residence in one of the following seven Florida counties: Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, or Sarasota.
  • Applicant must submit nomination in either English or Spanish.
  • Applicant must submit the required information regarding the educational institution at which he or she would like to use the funds. If they do not presently have an educational financial need, the funds can be held until an educational institution has been identified.
  • Must be willing to show proof of enrollment and good academic standing for the scholarship timeframe

Selection Criteria

Lightning Community Heroes of Tomorrow ("Heroes") will be selected on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Strength of past community service and volunteerism
  • Enrollment in middle school, high school, community college, college or university
  • Strength of letters of recommendation from non-relative references
  • The degree to which the Hero has planned and/or organized a service activity which has clearly benefitted other people in the Tampa Bay community
  • The degree to which the service activity was initiated and motivated primarily by the winner himself or herself; the activity may not have been done solely to complete an assignment for school or work
  • The degree to which the Hero has come up with a community plan that will make a special and significant impact on individuals, families or the community-at-large.

The selection process will be completely non-discriminatory with respect to race, religion, and ethnic origin.  
The Foundation will honor Heroes of Tomorrow at select weekend games. Each grant will be a one-time grant, with no provision for renewal.
The selection committee will consist of employees of the Lightning Foundation (of which both Trustees of the Foundation serve on the Board of Directors), and members of the Lightning Foundation's Community Advisory Committee. 

Scholarship Grant

Each scholarship grant will be in an amount up to $25,000 to be used for tuition, fees, and other course-related expenses such as books, supplies and equipment, at an accredited middle school, high school, college (including community colleges), or university at which the recipient is a candidate for a degree or diploma. If there is no present financial need, or if the present financial need is less than $25,000, the Foundation can defer some or all of the unused portion of the grant to make scholarship grants to assist the recipient in future years when he or she does need the funds for education. Each individual scholarship grant may not exceed $25,000.00. In general, it also will not exceed the cost of tuition, fees, and other course-related expenses such as books, supplies and equipment, at the school or college at which the recipient is a candidate for a degree or diploma. If the Hero of Tomorrow does not foresee use for the full $25,000 in scholarship grant money, they have the option to make their grant to the recommended public charity (if approved by the Foundation) an amount greater than $25,000.  

The Foundation will not consider an application from, and will not make a grant to, any person who is a child or a more remote descendant (or a spouse of any such person) of any officer or trustee of the Foundation, any donor to the Foundation, or any member of the Selection Committee.

In general, the Foundation expects to make grant payments directly to the educational institution, with instructions that the grant is made subject to the condition that the recipient is an enrolled student in good standing.   Further, the grant terms will require the student to send the Foundation a narrative report, and will require either the student or the school to send a copy of the transcript, at the end of the school year.   In an unusual situation when the grant is made to an educational institution to pay the tuition or other expenses of a Hero, and the Hero does not attend that institution, the terms of the grant will require the institution to repay the grant funds to the Foundation to the extent they are not used for the intended purpose.

Community Service Initiative Grant

In addition to receiving a scholarship grant up to $25,000 under the process described above, each Lightning Community Hero of Tomorrow is given the privilege of recommending a community-based charity to receive a grant of at least $25,000 from the Vinik Family Foundation.

In order to qualify as a charity eligible to receive such grant, the proposed recipient organization must meet the following minimum criteria:

  • The organization must be classified by IRS as a publicly-supported charity under Code section 501(c)(3), with solid local operations, highly regarded organizational and board leadership, and in good financial standing.
  • The organization must be headquartered, and must provide services, within any one or more the following Florida counties: Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, or Sarasota.   A local chapter of a national organization will be eligible if the local chapter is located and operates within such counties.
  • The organization must be aligned with and/or relevant to the cause or purpose identified in the application submitted by the nominee for Lightning Community Hero of Tomorrow.
  • The organization must have a track record of quality service delivery and demonstrated results (with the specifics depending on the particular charitable purpose) .
  • The organization must demonstrate fiscal responsibility and long term sustainability of its programs.
  • The organization must be willing to enter into a grant agreement with the Foundation, under which the organization will agree (i) to use the grant funds in accordance with the charitable purpose specified in the grant letter, (ii) to provide satisfactory evidence to the Foundation or its representatives to confirm that the grant funds were so used, (iii) to return any part of the grant funds that are not so used within 12 months after the initial disbursement of the grant funds, and (iv) to assist the Vinik Family Foundation to do a follow-up story/vignette on how the funds impacted the organization, or permitted the organization to impact the community, for publication or promotion.

All decisions to make grants to charitable organizations will be subject to the discretion and approval of the Vinik Family Foundation, and its decision shall be final.