TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Melissa Mihok as the 32nd Lightning Community Hero this season during the first period of tonight's game versus the Florida Panthers. Mihok, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the funds to Heels to Heal and the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.
Melissa's life changed forever after she was attacked one night while working late at a high-end restaurant. Her attackers were apprehended, but the tragedy was far from over as her life quickly became consumed by trauma and fear. Throughout her experience with the justice system and counseling, Mihok realized the need for resources for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, which is why she founded Heels to Heal. This is an organization in Tampa Bay that ensures that those affected by sexual assault and domestic violence are provided with life-saving counseling regardless of age, income or insurance status.
Melissa shares her story with thousands of individuals at over two dozen community events each year. She has also partnered with the St. Petersburg Police Department in Pinellas County, which enables local law enforcement and domestic violence shelters to connect victims with licensed mental health counselors from Heels to Heal, who have experience in dealing with domestic violence and sexual assault cases. To date, this partnership has facilitated counseling for approximately 200 survivors. Mihok plans to put the funds toward contracting additional counselors who can meet the increasing need for counseling services directed at younger victims of abuse.
Melissa Mihok becomes the 303rd 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 $15.25 million to more than 400 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.