The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Matthew Baar as a Lightning Community Hero during the first period of today’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Baar, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will divide the money among his charities of choice, All Children’s Hospital and Children’s Dream Fund.
Just 13 years old, Baar established the “Change For Change” campaign, in which he collects loose coins to benefit the Infusion Center at All Children’s Hospital, to honor his brother, Joey, whose battle with leukemia requires frequent trips to the medical facility for treatment. After observing that several toys and games inside the center were in need of replacement, Baar set out to immediately begin raising the funds through his initiative, and in just a few months, exceeded his goal of totaling more than $2,500.
The children receiving infusions at All Children's Hospital are a community amongst themselves. Drug infusions received at the center treat children undergoing procedures such as bone marrow transplants, heart transplants, and chemotherapy. Patients receiving infusions typically spend four to five hours in one of 12 bays at the center, while many utilize the various toys and games to help distract them from the duration and the discomfort of their treatments.
Though Baar was motivated to begin his “Change for Change” campaign out of a sense of fairness, he has been an advocate for serving others through most of his life. The most recent turn of the calendar marks Baar’s third year raising money on behalf of his brother, whose special needs have been present since birth. Though Joey’s most recent struggle has been with cancer, he was born with Down’s syndrome and underwent open-heart surgery at the age of six months. When Joey was granted his Children’s Dream Fund wish to spend a week at a theme park, Barr felt it was only fair to provide the same wish to another boy in turn. In 2010, he designed a bowling game to be played at a local festival in Bradenton, and one dollar at a time, raised enough money necessary to send a boy from the area on his own “dream.” Again this year, he is working to exceed last year’s total to fulfill another child’s dream by using the same bowling game during the festival.
Baar possesses a true sense of altruism that many individuals at his age are too young to understand, and which many adults have lost sight of. He believes that thinking of someone other than himself and showing other children that they have a role and responsibility to others in their community is one of the most important lessons for any young person to learn. Through all his endeavors, Baar has raised over $8,000, which has been used to support All Children’s Hospital and Children’s Dream Fund on behalf of both his brother and many others in need throughout the community.