TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Melissa Burman as the 19th Lightning Community Hero this season during the first period of tonight's game versus the Montreal Canadiens. Burman, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the funds to A Brighter Community.
Back in the fall of 2013, Melissa made the decision to take on the future of 60 children at a nonprofit called A Brighter Community (ABC). This organization has served at-risk preschoolers in Tampa Heights for 95 years, providing affordable preschool to families who work their hardest but can't always make ends meet. ABC was on the verge on closing, until Burman stepped in and voluntarily began serving as the executive director. Melissa and her husband personally renovated the entire interior, exterior and playground of the school from 2014-2016, each individually volunteering over 1,200 hours of physical labor on the weekends while working full-time jobs during the week. She has secured over $170,000 in new funding, enabling every student to receive some level of scholarship.
For many low-income families, early childhood programs are often financially out of reach. ABC never turns a child away due to a parent's inability to pay and annually serves approximately 125 families. ABC's core programs are their preschool programming, childcare, daily meals, access to medical and dental professionals, occupational and speech therapy, developmental evaluations and family support services. Because of Melissa, Tampa's oldest nonprofit preschool has been able to keep providing an excellent early childhood education to children, ensuring a brighter future for each child served and a brighter Tampa Bay community.
Melissa Burman becomes the 290th Lightning Community Hero since Jeff and Penny Vinik introduced the Lightning Community Hero program in 2011-12 with a $10 million, five-season commitment to the Tampa Bay community. Through this evening's game, in total, the Lightning Foundation has granted $14.6 million to more than 300 different nonprofits in the Greater Tampa Bay area. During the summer of 2016, the Vinik's announced that the community hero program will give away another $10-million over the next five seasons.