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Lightning owner Jeff Vinik proud to continue Community Heroes program in spite of current work stoppage

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

Even though the current NHL work stoppage has caused the cancellation of some games, the decision by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik to continue the organization’s Community Heroes program is a big win for Tampa Bay charities.

Vinik eagerly announced earlier this week that the Community Heroes program, first instituted at the beginning of the 2011-12 season as part of the Lightning’s organizational transformation, will return for a second consecutive year and continue as planned no matter how many games the Lightning play this season.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Vinik said. “We still don’t know whether or not we will play games yet, but one thing I do know for certain is that myself and the Lightning organization are both proud and excited to move forward with honoring the fantastic individuals in this community.”

The Community Heroes program, through the help of the Lightning Foundation, awards $50,000 to a recipient’s preferred charity of choice at each of the team’s 41 home games throughout the regular season. Last season, in just its first year, the program handed out a grand total of $2,050,000.

For as long as the ongoing collective bargaining discussions continue, a check presentation will take place on each of the days the Lightning were supposed to have a home game. During that same period, the presentations will be held at the site of the recipient’s local charity rather than at the Times Forum.

The first hero presentation of the 2012-13 season occurred Tuesday at the Homeless Emergency Project in Clearwater, where Community Hero Bruce Fyfe was honored for his work with less fortunate individuals, including many military veterans.

The display served more as an extension of Vinik’s charitable arm into the community, as the Bolts owner also recently paid homage to the arts at the Lightning’s first annual Celebration of the Arts, which took place last week inside the Firestick Grill at the Times Forum.

Jeff Vinik poses with the first community hero of the year, Bruce Fyfe, this past week at the Homeless Emergency Project in Clearwater..

Approximately 300 different works of art were submitted by Bay Area residents, with 41 pieces in total tabbed as pieces to be displayed around the Times Forum throughout the year.

In addition, the entire Lightning organization went all in on Thursday of last week to participate in the region-wide United Way Day of Caring, where approximately 135 employees of Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment, LLC donated 450 hours of volunteer service, helping out with a variety of projects that included restoring children’s playgrounds and lending a hand at the area YMCA.

“No matter the situation on the ice, we are always in a position to give back and to help others,” Vinik added. “We feel as if it is something we are obligated to do, and we feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to touch people’s lives and truly make a difference. It’s my nature, and I never ever give it a second thought.”

Just like choosing to continue on with the Community Heroes program.

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