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Lightning Foundation Distributes Community Grants

by Lonnie Herman / Tampa Bay Lightning
While the season on the ice for the Tampa Bay Lightning might not have gone as planned, for many deserving local organizations, the Lightning, through the Lightning Foundation, are always champions off the ice.

On Wednesday night representatives of these organizations joined with Tampa Bay Lightning Owner and CEO Oren Koules, Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton and Community Representative Dave Andreychuk in Icons Restaurant at the St. Pete Times Forum to receive their share of grants totaling more than $82,000 at the fourth annual Community Grant Awards and Donor Recognition Reception.

With the Lightning and Sun Sports Broadcast team of Rick Peckham, Bobby Taylor, Dave Mishkin and Paul Kennedy serving as co-emcees, 18 worth-while organizations in the Tampa Bay area received the financial grants they had applied for when the grant process began in January.

Andreychuk, a member of the Foundation Board of Directors, began the evening by announcing the winners of the Dave Andreychuk Scholarships, awarded annually to two deserving high school seniors who are members of a Hillsborough or Pinellas County High School hockey team.

This year’s recipient’s, who both plan to attend the University of Central Florida in the fall, are Brent Jones of River Ridge High School in New Port Richey and Edgar Ramirez of Newsome High School in Lithia. Andrychuk, who personally reviewed each of the applications, cited Jones for volunteering more than 150 hours at a local hospital while Ramirez, a member of the National Honor Society, plans to study Electrical Engineering.

Over the course of the evening, programs ranging from Head Start to Mobile Literary Outreach were funded, all in keeping with the stated mission of the Lightning Foundation: to support local organizations that enrich and enhance the lives of those living throughout the Tampa Bay community.

Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg received a grant to fund four seventh grade students from Academy Prep to attend a weeklong summer program at Shorecrest.

“This grant, we believe, has a ripple effort,” Headmaster Mike Murphy explained. “It provides an enriching week for some middle school students and also gives them a chance to say, ‘could we extend that week into a high school career?’ We are incredibly grateful to the Foundation for giving us this opportunity.”

Crisha Scolaro, one of the founders of Pepin Academy High School and currently the Community Liaison, was on hand to accept a grant that will allow the school to enlarge their Language Skills Lab, which serves students with learning and language disabilities.

“We’re very, very happy to get this grant,” Scolaro said. “It means our unique lab will be available to serve more students.”

“When you hear what good causes the grants will be used for, you gain a greater appreciation of the outreach efforts of all the groups,” Mishkin told the crowd.

Also recognized were major Lightning Foundation donors and supporters, among them the Suncoast Federal Credit Union for their sponsorship of Spring Education Night, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida for supporting the “Families Fit for Life” program, and the Schukay Family for their contributions to the Lightning’s Sled Hockey program.

Lightning forward Martin St. Louis and his wife, Heather, who serves as the co-chair of the annual Reindeer Run to benefit the Epilepsy Foundation, along with the Vincent Lecavalier Foundation, also received praise for their contributions to the Foundation and the Community.

Finally, Kennedy honored former Lightning Foundation Executive Director Nancy Crane for her dedication in making the Lightning Foundation, “the soul of this franchise; its face and its strength.”

Koules, on hand to personally congratulate each recipient, summed up the night this way:

“From the top all the way to the bottom, giving back to the community is a priority of the organization. I think the previous ownership did a great job creating the foot print into the community and we will continue forward with that philosophy.”

Then, with a smile, he added, “Anytime you give money away for a good cause it puts you in a good mood. It means a lot to us.”

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