TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Mark Lalli as the first Lightning Community Hero of the year during the first period of tonight's game against the Florida Panthers. Lalli, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Quantum Leap Farms.
Lalli is a true American hero. He was deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom, working as a crew chief of a Blackhawk helicopter, flying many missions in Iraq before sustaining a severe traumatic brain injury resulting in paralysis. His helicopter crashed, killing six of 11 crew members. His journey since the crash is one of finding meaning and purpose in his life, not in spite of his losses, but because of them.
After the crash, Lalli was besieged by survivor's guilt, longing for mobility and independence. While he coped with life in a wheelchair, he attended many Wounded Warrior events and began to draw from his own experiences to inspire and enhance the lives of everyone he met, especially fellow wounded vets. Lalli currently serves as the staff photographer at Quantum Leap Farms, using his talent to capture beautiful and moving images of events hosted in partnership with local charity organizations. His work appears in nearly all promotional material that the farm uses and their partners produce to raise awareness of collaborative efforts. The founder of Quantum Leap Farms, Dr. Edie Dopking, is also a former Community Hero herself from the 2012-13 season.