TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Eva Gay as the seventh Lightning Community Hero this season during the first period of this afternoon's game versus the Winnipeg Jets. Gay, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate half the funds to Autism Shifts, while the other half will go towards a scholarship for her education.
Gay, a freshman at the University of South Florida, is determined to help young adults struggling with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) obtain educational resources outside of the classroom. Gay became inspired to help those affected by ASD after her sister was diagnosed with Autism at age 17. Young adults with Autism often no longer receive specialized services after high school graduation, which is why Gay is partnering with Autism Shifts to organize an Art for Autism summer clay exhibit. Autism Shifts provides job training and employ individuals with ASD. The program's staff members train students in creative channels such as videography, graphic design and drawing.
Gay's initiative will aid in providing a weekend long camp for students ages 18 to 29 to participate in therapeutic art classes while learning the value of teamwork and developing relationships. The camp will conclude with a community event at the Glazer Children's Museum, where the students' art will be showcased. Gay believes that the camp will provide a creative environment for individuals to express themselves in a fun and educational way.
Gay becomes the 375th 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 $18.75 million to more than 750 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.