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by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning
tbl.commentator: Holly Campbell

On Tuesday night at the St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Cory Sarich and his wife, Reagan, were accompanied by middle school students Jazmin Woods, Ashley Brown, Chase Shiflet, James Phillips and Derecia Timmins at the head table for “Sarchy’s Students Awards Dinner.” The five students were among 25 who were handpicked by their teachers from four Tampa Bay area middle schools and were honored at this event based upon their ability to “set, defend and reach their goals.” The special 25 were recognized as they went above and beyond to achieve their goals.

Through Sarchy’s Students, sponsored by the Lightning Foundation, Cory and Reagan purchased tickets for students from Wilson Middle School, Rampello Downtown Partnership School, St. Peter Claver Catholic School and Academy Prep Center of Tampa to attend Lightning home games at the St. Pete Times Forum throughout the season.

The five students who surrounded Cory and Reagan were asked to speak about themselves and the personal goals that they set and achieved. Shiflet, an 8th grader at Rampello Downtown Partnership School, set the ambitious and challenging goal of becoming a writer. As Shiflet stated in his speech, “goals are the most important component you need in order to achieve in life. It doesn’t matter if you pass the SAT with a perfect score or if you have an IQ of 170.”

Because of his hard work and dedication, his name can be found in the movie review section of the St. Petersburg Times, as he recently contributed reviews for movies such as Spiderman 3.

Cory Sarich addressed the students by sharing a little bit of his own experience in school and the ways in which his education and his goal-setting not only led him to become a better student, but also a better hockey player.

“Education was important in my family,” Sarich said. “It wasn’t just about hockey. In fact, the important thing about education is that it helped me as a hockey player- it helped me to stay focused, it kept me out of trouble, and it gave me strong morals and life skills.”

Like many young athletes, professional hockey was a long shot for Sarich, but with his drive to achieve his goals, he is now an eight-year NHL veteran with a Stanley Cup on his resume.

“This night was special because it was Cory’s idea” said Nancy Crane, executive director of the Lightning Foundation. “He wanted to give tickets, but he also wanted to have an important program. So rather than just having people at the game, he wanted to make sure that people were setting goals and trying to achieve things.”

The evening consisted of private tours of the Lightning locker room for the students and their families, where Sarich greeted them and informed them of certain team rituals and traditions in the locker room, including the reason why no one steps on the sacred Lightning logo. The tours were followed by dinner in Icons restaurant, and the students met and received an autographed poster from Sarich.

The night was a success for Cory, Reagan, and all of ‘Sarchy’s Students,’ and as Crane described it, “it was simple yet effective.”

As the night came to a close, the defenseman left the students with some final words.

“Enjoy school, as though it may not seem like it, it goes by fast. Learn as much as you can, and always try your hardest to fully apply yourself.”

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