TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Nadine Smith as the 27th Lightning Community Hero of the 2016-17 season during the first period of tonight's game versus the Calgary Flames. Through this evening's game, in total, the Lightning Foundation has granted $13 million to more than 300 different non-profits in the Greater Tampa Bay area. Smith, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Equality Florida Institute, Inc.
Smith has encountered and overcame numerous obstacles in her life, not only for herself, but also for countless LGBT Floridians. After coming out, Smith was estranged from her family, fired from her job, and denied an apartment lease. Rather than give in to discouragement, Smith finished college and became a full-time activist after several years as a newspaper reporter. In 1997, Smith co-founded Equality Florida, the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Equality Florida now has more than 250,000 members and more than 15 full-time employees.
In response to the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Smith led a relief effort that included two promises. The first was to do everything the organization could to support the survivors and the families of those killed. The second promise was to ensure that the lasting memorial to the tragedy is a safer country for LGBT people, especially our youth. In addressing the first promise, Equality Florida raised more than $9.5 million, sending every penny to the survivors of the shooting and the victims' families. In an effort to address the second promise, Equality Florida launched Honor Them With Action campaign, #ForThe49, focused on uprooting the hatred that fuels discrimination and violence. Through their outreach programs, Equality Florida has continued to help build Tampa Bay's reputation for diversity and inclusion.
Smith becomes the 257th 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. Last summer, the Vinik's announced that the community hero program will give away another $10-million over the next five seasons.