The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Drew Valenti as the seventh Lightning Community Hero of Tomorrow this season during the first period of tonight's game versus Anaheim Ducks. Valenti, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money evenly between the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County and to a scholarship for his future education.
During his seventh-grade year, Valenti and his family were walking in an affluent Mexican metropolitan area when they witnessed large groups of homeless and handicapped children begging on the side of the road. This severe wealth gap inspired Valenti to reflect on what he could do to help those in need. After becoming heavily involved in local community service initiatives throughout the Tampa Bay area, it became clear to Valenti that he had the power to impact many lives through volunteering. After becoming heavily involved with Key Club, Valenti was elected Lieutenant Governor of a division that includes eight clubs in the Tampa Bay area. Valenti was also appointed the Florida District Endowment Fund Committee Chair.
Throughout his roughly 750 hours worth of volunteering, Valenti found his passion and desire to address the need for early literacy improvement in Hillsborough County. The Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County (ELCHC) is a non-profit organization that aides over 20,000 children in subsidized child care. Valenti has proposed an initiative to provide a library filled with children's books and parent-child literacy materials. Through the existing framework of ELCHC, high school volunteers will read to children while providing educational resources and assistance. Valenti estimates 10,000 children from low-income families will receive free books and education guidance.
Valenti becomes the 254th 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 $12.8 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: Valenti honored as Lightning Hero