TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Merry Lynn Morris as the 34th Lightning Community Hero of the 2015-16 season during the first period of tonight's game versus the Boston Bruins. Morris, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the VSA, USF Foundation and Revolutions Dance.
Tonight's community hero has opened the world of dance to people with disabilities. In 1987, Morris' father suffered a severe brain injury in a head-on collision. After, she became a full-time caregiver that used the arts to improve his quality of life. While serving as a board member at VSA Florida, she coordinated A New Definition of Dance, a program featuring a group of dancers with disabilities from all over the world. These series of performances aimed to eliminate negative stereotypes, introduce students with disabilities to new methods of communication and self-expression and to provide career development for artists with disabilities.
Morris also leads the Arts in Health Program for USF students to enhance diagnostic and observation skills to medical students through art. In addition, she has served in an active volunteer role for Revolutions Dance as a teacher and choreographer. Morris' ambition is to make dance universally accessible and to ensure the general public that dancers can produce professional-level work regardless of their looks and abilities.
Morris becomes the 213th Lightning Community Hero since Jeff and Penny Vinik introduced the 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 $10.8 million to more than 300 different non-profits in the Greater Tampa Bay area.