TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Catie Purnell as the eighth Lightning Community Hero of Tomorrow this season during the first period of tonight's game versus the Florida Panthers. Purnell, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money evenly between Keeping Tampa Bay Beautiful and to a scholarship for her future education.
When Purnell was 16 years old, her mother passed away from alcoholism. Purnell's father was in and out of rehab and unable to care for her. After he passed away less than two years after the passing of her mother, Purnell was forced to move in with her grandmother. To follow her passion for helping others, Purnell put all her efforts into school and volunteer work. Purnell became the president of Key Club, volunteered at an elementary school, and worked with Metropolitan Ministries. Between these three efforts, Purnell totaled approximately 200 hours' worth of community service.
Purnell has proposed a school-based recycling and sustainability program that would focus on five Hillsborough County schools, two of which would be Title 1. The program will aim to educate students on issues such as recycling and sustainability, while developing involvement through an inter-school competition. Purnell aims to kick off her program with a "Green Week." Each day of the week would focus on a different type of recycling, such as plastic, metal, and electronics. Purnell plans to get students more involved through signage posted throughout the school, as well as announcements made while students are in their homeroom. The remainder of the school year would be a competition between the five schools, with the winning school having the greatest weight of recycled material. Purnell wants to educate students who do not know all the benefits of recycling, while simultaneously maximizing participation through the competition.
Purnell becomes the 262nd 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 $13.25 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.
Video: Lightning honor Purnell as Hero