TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Annette Kirk as the 19th Lightning Community Hero this season during the first period of tonight's game against the Florida Panthers. Kirk, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate to Southeastern Guide Dogs and Gold Star Moms.
Kirk, a U.S. Army veteran, actively supports veterans and their families in the Tampa Bay community. After her son lost his life while serving in Afghanistan, Kirk joined the Tampa Bay Chapter of American Gold Star Mothers. Today, she serves as the Gold Star Mothers Inc. state level president of the Department of Florida/Puerto Rico. During Kirk's involvement with Gold Star Mothers, the organization has supported the Fisher House of James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital, Southeastern Guide Dogs and The United Service Organizations.
Additionally, Kirk worked to plan and secure funding for the Tampa Veterans Park and Museum Gulf War Memorial and the Afghanistan Memorial to remember the fallen. While planning the memorials, Kirk met a puppy from Southeastern Guide Dogs and became involved with Gold Star Family dog program. Kirk and her Gold Star Family dog, Bruno, visit veterans and their families to provide emotional support.
Kirk becomes the 384th Lightning Community Hero since Jeff and Penny Vinik introduced the Lightning Community Hero program in 2011-12 with a $10 million, five-season commitment to the Tampa Bay community. Through this evening's game, in total, the Lightning Foundation has granted $19.35 million to more than 750 different nonprofits in the Greater Tampa Bay area. During the summer of 2016, the Vinik's announced that the community hero program will give away another $10-million over the next five seasons.