TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Gabriella Gillen as the 21st Lightning Community Hero this season during the first period of tonight's game versus the Montreal Canadiens. Gillen, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate half to A Kid's Place, while the other half will go towards a scholarship for her own education.
Gillen, a freshman at Liahona Preparatory Academy, began volunteering at the age of 6 at an event called "The Week of the Family" where she helped deliver meals to the elderly. Through this event she learned that there are people with very real needs in our communities and everyone, even a 6-year old, can do something to make a difference. She then began working with Metropolitan Ministries building units for Pay It Forward farm, an organization helping single mothers. Gabriella has also volunteered with Rise Against Hunger, Young Women Presidency at her church and Vacation Bible School for United Methodist Church.
Last year, Gabriella created TLC Bedtime bags to provide comfort to abused and neglected children entering foster care. She paired with A Kid's Place to distribute the TLC Bedtime bags. Working with this organization taught her even more about the hardships of being a foster child. Many times, siblings are separated when they go into foster care and Gabriella hopes to work with A Kid's Place to find more ways to keep them together. Along with the Bedtime bags, Gabriella wants to be able to provide children in foster care with Birthday bags to make sure that they feel special and loved. She hopes to be able to continue to expand her project and work with other local organizations to reach more children while raising awareness.
Gabriella Gillen becomes the 344th 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 $17.3 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.