The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Audrey Scheidenhelm as a Lightning Community Hero during the first period of tonight's game against the Edmonton Oilers. Scheidenhelm, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the College Fund of Pinellas County.
Scheidenhelm has been a community hero to more than 630 financially-disadvantaged college students who have received her personal, one-on-one encouragement and support in every aspect of their college experience. In the 1960s she witnessed the racial disparity in educational opportunities and took action to reach out to local leaders and school officials. She began programs to mentor and shepherd bright young minorities through the ever-changing environment of discrimination to become competitive to attend any college. The actions she took led to the creation of the College Fund of Pinellas County, Inc. in 1966 in which she served continuously for 46 years. There are now 137 different colleges that have enrolled her students from Pinellas County, thanks to Scheidenhelm's untiring efforts. She is as enthusiastic and passionate as she was 50 years ago, helping the next generation get a good education, and inspiring them to contribute to their community.
She personally follows the path of each College Fund recipient from the selection process through four years of college until graduation. This is a nearly full-time volunteer job that reaches out to many as 45 students a year, in which she eagerly and lovingly communicates and encourages each one. She not only raises funds to give $500 a semester to each student, but also dedicates her time to keeping a close eye on how each student can succeed. Scheidenhelm does extraordinary things like helping a student shop for a wedding dress and plan a wedding. She understands the difficulties caused by a lack of sufficient funds, and offers much needed friendly advice, sometimes being truthful and strict at the same time. Many students don't have family support, and she provides it without complaint.