TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Jim Coats as the first Lightning Community Hero this season during the first period of tonight's game versus the Florida Panthers. Coats, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate to Boys & Girls Club Suncoast and the Pinellas County Sheriff Police Athletic League.
Coats has positively impacted the lives of thousands of young men and women through his volunteerism, mentorship and generosity. During his seven-year tenure as Pinellas County Sheriff, Coats raised nearly one million dollars in support of Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches, an organization that helps improve the lives of at-risk youth. He also founded "Safe Harbor", a shelter that helps non-violent criminals get a second chance at life. Since his retirement in 2011, Coats has supported six non-profit organizations including PACE center for girls, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Clothes to Kids, The Beth Dellinger Foundation, Pinellas County Police Athletic Leauge and Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast. In 2008, the Jim Coats Scholarship was established at Boys & Girls Clubs of the suncoast. Coats has contributed over $150,000 in personal resources to help more than 100 disadvantaged children receive access to the Boys & Girls Clubs program at no charge.
As a former board member of the Pineallas County Police Athletic League, Coats has helped provide education, recreation and sports programs in Lealman, one of the five high-risk zones in Pinellas County. His affiliation with the Sheriff's Office has allowed Coats to obtain information regarding the challenges youth face today in the local community. Coats uses this information to assist non-profit organizations in developing strategic plans on how to determine the most effective way to help at-risk youth. In addition to serving at-risk youth, Coats also raises awareness and donates funds dedicated to breast cancer research. Coats advocates, facilitates and participates in his wife's breast cancer fundraiser. Coats' passion for helping children and activism in the Pinellas County community continues to inspire others to serve and make a difference.
Jim Coats becomes the 369th 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 $18.45 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.