TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Dr. Heyward Mathews as the 22nd Lightning Community Hero this season during the first period of tonight's game versus the Columbus Blue Jackets. Mathews, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Reef Monitoring Inc.
For the past 40 years Dr. Mathews has taught at St. Pete College where he holds free symposiums for students to present their research and has certified thousands of scuba divers. He used his knowledge of the ocean and reefs to found the Clearwater Marine Aquarium as well as the Pinellas County Artificial Reef program. In 2005, he co-founded Reef Monitoring, a 501(c)3 research organization dedicated to the research and education of our marine environments. For the last 13 years along with Reef Monitoring, he has been doing fish counts, water quality sampling and other reef research all on his own time to better the Tampa Bay community.
Heyward has currently been focusing on Red Tide research as well as the invasive Lionfish. He is also building a Veteran's Memorial Reef dedicated to the men and women that have served in all branches of our military. After the BP Oil Spill, Dr. Mathews helped produce a series of videos and articles for Visit St. Pete/Clearwater to keep tourists coming to Florida, particularly the Tampa Bay area. He turned an old sewage treatment plant in the 1970s into the Clearwater Marine Science Center (now the Clearwater Marine Aquarium) where the public has enjoyed decades of interaction with marine life and further research and education.
Dr. Heyward Mathews becomes the 345th 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 $17.35 million to more than 400 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.