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Three Heroes In Our Community

by Dave Mishkin / Tampa Bay Lightning

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece about a Lightning C.H.A.R.G.E. event at Pinellas Hope over the summer. The C.H.A.R.G.E. program again is making a difference again this season, with numerous events all over the Tampa Bay area. (In fact, tomorrow, I’ll be joining 21 other Lightning employees in St. Petersburg for a Habitat for Humanity project).

Then there’s the Lightning Community Hero Program. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has donated $10 million over a five-year span for this program, which recognizes local heroes in our community. After a nomination and review process, a Hero is selected for each Lightning home game. That Hero receives a $50,000 grant for his/her selected charity. Even though the Lightning has yet to play a home game this year, the Community Hero Program has already recognized three outstanding individuals.

Hero: Bruce Fyfe. Charities: Homeless Emergency Project and Morton Plant Mease Hospital. For Bruce Fyfe, helping the homeless – particularly homeless veterans – has been his life’s mission. As stated in the Lightning press release: “The Homeless Emergency Project in Clearwater provides the homeless and very low-income individuals and families with housing, food, clothing and support services necessary to obtain self-sufficiency and improved quality of life.”

I checked out the Homeless Emergency Project’s website. On the home page, there is a sub-heading titled “Who We Help”. Veterans are at the top of the list.

Fyfe has served as Board Chair of HEP since 1992. So even when his son Brendan was serving three tours in Iraq, Fyfe understood the challenges facing veterans when they return home. But Brendan, suffering from the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, passed away at the age of 24. While grieving his own loss, Fyfe wanted to ensure that other veterans avoided a similar fate. He has created a housing project in Clearwater that will help the more than 15,000 projected homeless veterans in the coming years.

What impressed me about HEP (and Pinellas Hope when I visited) is that it’s an organization that not only is a lifeline for those in need, but also actively works to provide these individuals with the skills so that they can eventually make it on their own. That dual objective is at the heart of what Bruce Fyfe has made his personal mission.

Hero: Brooke Pasch. Charity: Make-A –Wish Foundation. What is one of the recognizable qualities of a hero? A person who must face an awful event or terrible circumstances, yet does not wallow or shrink away from the world. Bruce Fyfe has done that. So did Brooke Pasch, who is the first Hero to receive the award posthumously.

She was born with VACTERL association and expected only to survive for two weeks. Instead, she lived until she was 19. During that time, she devoted her energy to making a difference in other children’s lives, particularly those going through hardships. She often visited with kids in hospitals who didn’t have any other visitors. She bought extra food for so that those without money could eat. She threw parties for kids that had no place to have them. She organized a drama club. She sang to children and made them happy. She did this even while she was enduring her own medical issues. After the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted her wish, she helped at Make-A Wish fundraisers so that others could receive their wishes. At the time of her passing, she was putting on a school fundraiser to grant a child’s wish through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Her parents, who accepted the donation on her behalf, are giving the money to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. As a result, seven wishes will be granted.

The Lightning Foundation recently honored Brooke Pasch posthumously as a Lightning Community Hero benefitting the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Personally, I cannot imagine how I would have reacted had I been walking in her shoes. I can only hope that I would show the same dedication and selflessness that she did.

After hearing about her story, I thought about my dreams for my own kids, now six and five. Like most parents, I want them to live a long, full life. Brooke Pasch may not have lived a long life, but it was certainly a full one. It seems clear that of the two adjectives, that’s the more important one.

Hero: Chely Figueroa. Charity: Metropolitan Ministries. Like Pinellas Hope and Homeless Energy Project, Metropolitan Ministries is helping the poor, hungry and homeless – not only by providing food and shelter in the present, but also by giving them the tools so they can have a better and hopeful future.

At one time, Chely Figueroa was poor, hungry and homeless. Her son was only 18-months old. Metropolitan Ministries gave her food and shelter, as well as the support needed to become self-sufficient. She earned her GED and soon afterwards, landed two jobs. Now, she is assisting others so that they too can turn their lives around.

She is currently supervising the retail operations at Inside The Box Café, Metropolitan Ministries’ new restaurant that opened last January. Every meal purchased at Inside the Box Café provides an additional free meal to Metropolitan Ministries. Since its opening, the restaurant has served more than 16,000 meals – thereby providing 16,000 meals to those in need.

Figueroa’s current endeavor makes a difference in two substantive ways. First, as stated above, her work is helping hungry people. But also, she’s mentoring folks so that they too can achieve personal success. Previously homeless individuals comprise the café’s staff. Additionally, four current MM residents are interns at the Café. To date, Figueroa has trained more than a dozen homeless clients. Thanks to her dedication, they are well on their way to future employment.

The Lightning have more Hero announcements coming up in the next few weeks. To find out more about the program – or to nominate a deserving candidate before the next deadline, November 15, 2012 – visit

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