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by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning
Lightning Foundation Grant Story Archive:
A Ray Of Hope From The Sunshine Project
SERVE Volunteers In Education
St. Peter Claver Catholic Scholarship Fund
Tampa Bay SLED Hockey Program
Everyday Blessings For Foster Children
The Spring Of Tampa Bay, Where Family Abuse Ends
A Gift For Teaching
Salesian Youth Center
Connected By 25

On Wednesday, May 31 the Lightning Foundation, charitable arm of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the St. Pete Times Forum, presented nine financial grants to charities in the Tampa Bay community totaling more than $70,000. Marking the first time in its history that the foundation has conducted a grant program, the event signaled the evolution and continued growth of the Lightning Foundation which aims to be a leader in Tampa Bay, helping to make our community a better place to live, work and play.

Below is the eighth of nine features that will run weekdays on, detailing each program that received a grant and why it was selected by the Lightning Foundation's Board of Directors. For more information on each program or to learn how you can help please look for the link at the end of the story.



The Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco had a problem. Villa Madonna, their successful school located on Columbus Drive since 1936, was being vandalized by local kids.

How would they deal with the problem?

Being more vigilant and turning the perpetrators into police would seem like a logical option for most, but not for the Salesian Sisters. Instead, they decided to build a center where local youths could come after school to focus their energy on more constructive things.

Thus, the Salesian Youth Center, one of Tampa's success stories, was born. In conjunction with Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, the Salesian Youth Center has been helping Tampa Children since 1994.

"We try to provide a safe environment for kids to get off the street and participate after school," said Matthew Barsema, Grant Director for the Salesian Youth Center. "It's a place for them to go."

In every community, an increasing number of children are at home with no adult care or supervision. Young people need to know that someone cares about them. Boys & Girls Clubs offer that and more. Club programs and services promote and enhance the development of boys and girls by instilling a sense of competence, usefulness, belonging and influence.

The Salesian Youth Center/Boys and Girls Club is an inclusive youth development organization committed to helping boys and girls develop the character and qualities needed to become responsible citizens and good leaders.

The Center serves more than 800 inner-city children with an after-school and summer camp program. Aside from giving these youngsters a place to call their own, changes have also taken place in their neighborhood. According to school and law enforcement officials, crime has decreased 14% and school retention has increased 12%.

Programs for children include homework tutoring, accelerated reading programs, computer training, sewing classes, landscaping, drug prevention and AIDS awareness. Activities include: team sports, arts and crafts, games, music, field trips, girls scouts, cheerleading, and much much more.

The grant received by the Salesian Youth Center from the Lightning Foundation will provide scholarships for needy children to attend the youth center year-round, including the summer program, and will allow the children to participate in all activities.

"The Tampa Bay Lightning are allowing us to build one step so each child can climb higher toward succeeding in life," Barsema said.

Though affiliated with Boys & Girls Clubs, the Salesian Youth Center receives little national financial support from Boys & Girls Clubs and relies heavily on local support.

To help out or learn more, call 813.226.0836.
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