TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Joe Versaggi as the 35th Lightning Community Hero of the season during the first period of tonight's game against the Montreal Canadiens. Versaggi, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the Tampa General Hospital Foundation. Tonight's donation also marks the Community Heroes $8-million benchmark, since it started nearly four seasons ago.
Tonight's Lightning Community Hero is a burn survivor who uses his tragic experience to provide comfort and support to other burn patients in the Tampa Bay community. Versaggi had been in a plane crash that eroded in flames and was taken to the hospital. After five weeks of being in a coma, he awoke to learn that 35 percent of his body had been burned and that his wife did not survive the plane crash.
He recovered through the care he received in the hospital, and now volunteers his time at Tampa General Hospital providing peer support to burn patients. He volunteers approximately 30 to 35 hours a week and drives the courtesy shuttle at least one day out of the week.
Versaggi has received recognition on multiple occasions from local media in the Tampa Bay area for his volunteer contributions at the Tampa General Hospital Regional Burn Center.