TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Bill Monfort as the 36th Lightning Community Hero of the 2016-17 season during the first period of tonight's game versus the Arizona Coyotes. Monfort, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Angels Unaware.
Bill Monfort and his wife, Bessie, gave birth to their first child Rossie in 1959. Rossie weighed only two pounds and her prognosis was so poor that the hospital did not even record her footprints. Miraculously, Rossie lived, and as she grew, the Monfort's realized she was developmentally disabled. When keeping Rossie safe became difficult, the Monfort's placed her in the nearest state institution, a place called Sunland in Fort Myers. After attempting to seek alternative options in the area, Monfort decided to start his own charity.
He started this new endeavor by organizing the Sunland Parents Group of Hillsborough County. After raising money for bus trips, parents could visit their children and see the conditions at Sunland. Working with other families, Bill helped start Angels Unaware and raised $68,000 to purchase and outfit a building where individuals with disabilities could live in a home-like setting. In 1976, Bill helped open a group home for individuals with profound developmental disabilities, despite neighborhood opposition. Since then, over 100 individuals with disabilities have received the opportunity to live independently in a family setting and become active members of community life. Today, Angels Unaware has the longest-running group home in Tampa Bay, and has grown to encompass eight group homes, currently serving a total of 50 adult residents.
Monfort becomes the 265th 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 $13.4 million to more than 300 different non-profits in the Greater Tampa Bay area. Last summer, the Vinik's announced that the community hero program will give away another $10-million over the next five seasons.