TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Terri Willingham as the 12th Lightning Community Hero this season during the first period of tonight's game versus the Chicago Blackhawks. Willingham, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the Foundation for Community Driven Innovation, Tampa Bay Robotics Foundation and five other local non-profits.
Since Terri voluntarily organized her first community based student robotics team back in 2005, she was amazed by the difference it made in the kid's interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and their desire to pursue it. She witnessed positive changes in the outlooks of students and their futures, with many selecting an engineering major as they moved on to college. It is Terri's vision that Tampa Bay will become a community with a well-developed path for students to follow as they consider their options approaching graduation.
Willingham has provided guidance to schools and communities which has helped them organize student robotics teams that now serve approximately 2,000 students in the Tampa Bay area, and 10,000 students across Florida. She also has spent thousands of volunteer hours organizing events such as Tampa's annual ROBOITICON, which engages about 800 students and provides fun and purposeful learning opportunities. Events like this give students goals to aim for during their school year, and inspires them to continue their STEM interests. Additionally, Willingham has been working to bring an Advanced Manufacturing and Robotics Center to the area, which will give our youth a clear pathway to a high paying future and will also allow adults in the community an opportunity to improve their own earning potential.
Terri Willingham becomes the 283rd 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 $14.25 million to more than 300 different non-profits 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.