TAMPA BAY – For the 13th consecutive season, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Lightning Foundation have teamed up with community leader, Steve Yerrid and The Yerrid Foundation, to roll out the yellow carpet for Tampa Bay Fights Cancer Night. In conjunction with Tampa Bay Fights Cancer Night, as well as the team's 20th anniversary celebration, cancer survivor and alumnus John Cullen will drop the ceremonial first puck.
As in years past, the theme of Tampa Bay Fights Cancer Night will help raise awareness in support of finding a cure for the disease, as well as spread the message that courage, strength and love can build bridges to a better tomorrow. This centerpiece event involves a matchup between the Lightning and the New York Islanders on Thursday, March 14 in which more than 2,000 individuals affected by the disease or helping to find a cure in Tampa Bay will be invited to enjoy the game. The annual event brings together a multitude of charitable organizations dedicated to dealing with the dreaded disease.
"On behalf of the Lightning and the entire Tampa Bay community, I would like to thank Steve Yerrid for his continued philanthropy and steadfastness in the fight against cancer," said Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke. "Tampa Bay Fights Cancer Night is a signature event that has been a highlight of the Lightning schedule for 13 years and none of it would be possible without Steve's generosity. We hope everyone involved in the fight against this brutal disease in Tampa Bay enjoys themselves and we look forward to teaming up with Steve again for many years to come."
"Together with the Lightning, we have established one of the key note annual events for the cancer community in the Bay Area," Yerrid said. "Everyone involved in this event is united in the fight against a horrific disease that touches so many of our loved ones. In hosting this event, as we do every year, we hope to provide awareness of the battle that so many in our community are involved in and give them a break, if only for a night. The entire Lightning organization, including the coach and of course the players, has been tremendous in supporting our common cause. We will never quit until we find a cure.
"I am particularly pleased to have formed friendships with Jeff Vinik and Tod Leiweke, and I am 100 percent certain these men care deeply about doing good in our community. I look forward to our continued partnership and the future ahead."
To date, more than 77,000 cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, families, doctors, nurses and volunteers have participated in Tampa Bay Fights Cancer Night activities. With the goal of bringing the cause to the forefront of the community's awareness, The Yerrid Foundation and the Lightning Foundation have teamed up to provide tickets and t-shirts to all participants, as well as food vouchers to all children from the organizations.
To kick off the evening, Lightning Owner and Chairman Jeff Vinik will accompany Yerrid to center ice for a ceremonial opening puck drop and moment of silence to be held in honor of those who have lost their battle with the disease. More than 40 special guests will also be able to sit in the penalty box for the pregame skate, set off the Tesla Coils during the game, ride the Sweetbay Fan Zam and enjoy meet-and-greets with Lightning players, visits to the radio and television broadcast booths and other activities on Thunder Alley.
Three individuals will also be designated as "Yerrid's Heroes" for the night. The designations of Yerrid's Heroes each year go to local champions in the "cancer community". Those represented will be an outstanding doctor or caregiver, a family member and a current patient fighting their personal battles with the disease. These incredible individuals will be recognized in-game and wear a "Yerrid's Heroes" jersey for the night.
Cullen, who played in 150 games with the Lightning from 1995 through 1999, is the first and only Tampa Bay player to be awarded the NHL's Bill Masterton Trophy for dedication and perseverance. He was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in 1997 and stepped away from the game, and the Lightning, to undergo treatment. Cullen returned to the ice for the Bolts in 1998 and made the team after nearly 18 months away from the game. Along with the puck drop, Cullen will appear on the Thunder Alley stage, sign autographs for fans and participate in Thursday night's game presentation.
Fans will also see the return of the familiar yellow Yerrid Foundation t-shirts, symbolizing hope among members of the community. Those who would like to help support the event will be able to purchase the special shirts during the game outside of sections 130 and 310. Fans will also have the opportunity to purchase vintage shirts from previous seasons, while supplies last.
In addition, 11 local organizations will be provided with tickets for the Lightning-Jets game including Children's Cancer Center, Children's Dream Fund, All Children's Hospital, Faces of Courage, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Moffitt Cancer Center, Pediatric Cancer Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, 1 Voice Foundation, Make-A-Wish Foundation and Tampa General Hospital.
"Steve Yerrid is a community hero who cares deeply about children battling cancer and finding a cure for this horrific disease," Pediatric Cancer Foundation executive director Nancy Crane said. "His involvement with the Pediatric Cancer Foundation spans for more than 15 years and his donations total more than $1 million. We are honored to be part of Tampa Bay Fights Cancer Night hosted by The Yerrid Foundation as this event celebrates the collaborative spirit of our community in the fight against cancer. Mr. Yerrid continues to be an inspiring example of how our community can achieve a greater impact when we all join together."
"Tampa Bay Fights Cancer Night unites all cancer organizations, foundations, volunteers and hospitals together under one roof, along with patients on treatment, survivors and families who have lost loved ones to this disease," said Mary Ann Massolio, executive director of the 1Voice Foundation. "Steve Yerrid, the Yerrid Foundation and the Tampa Bay Lightning, truly create such an epic, one of a kind night, year after year, for our fighters and heroes. When you look around the Forum and see all the yellow shirts that are given out, you are reminded how many have been impacted by cancer. This is truly a special night and our families look forward to it every year and feel special when they see the magnitude of love and support that Tampa Bay Fights Cancer Night provides."
In December of 1998, the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association announced a joint initiative, Hockey Fights Cancer, to honor those in the hockey community who have struggled, or continue to struggle with cancer. Hockey's All-Star Kids Program, an extension of Hockey Fights Cancer, was introduced in October 1999 to link the hockey community with the youngest victims of cancer.