Almost all professional athletes, regardless of sport, do something for charity. Most do it without even a whiff of publicity. They visit hospitals and food banks without camera crews in tow. They entertain children and disabled people before and after games. They give both their time and money, and rarely, if ever, does it show up in the media.
Many, like Tampa Bay Lightning star forward Vincent Lecavalier, will buy suites at their home arenas to entertain different charitable groups.
But what Lecavalier is doing now will leave a legacy that will last long beyond his days as an All-Star hockey player.
This past October, Lecavalier became the naming sponsor – thanks to a $3 million donation through his charitable foundation – of a pediatric cancer ward at a Florida hospital.
The Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center will be a prominent part of the new All Children’s Hospital, which is scheduled to open in downtown St. Petersburg, Fla., either in late 2009 or early 2010. The center will occupy half of one floor of the new facility, which will be the largest pediatric care center in the southeast.
“I wanted to do something with kids,” Lecavalier told NHL.com. “I liked their (All Children’s Hospital) vision, their professionalism. I got to meet a lot of their kids at the games. You look at these kids, what they’ve been through, what they’ve done, and you want to help them. That’s the way I wanted to do it. I wanted to give back to the community.”
At 26,500 square feet, the Lecavalier Center will include 28 individual patient rooms, each of which will accommodate the child’s parents staying overnight. There also will be playrooms for adolescent-age children, and the entire center will have special a HEPA-filtered airflow system, which will allow patients with suppressed immune systems to go anywhere in the center, rather than be restricted to their rooms.
“The creation of this new Vincent Lecavalier Center will allow us to build upon our established tradition of providing top-notch care for children with cancer and blood disorders,” Gary Carnes, President and CEO, All Children’s Health System, said when the announcement of the donation was made in October. “It’s more than a new home for one of the largest pediatric cancer programs in the southeastern United States. The center provides the space for our program to flourish and continue attracting expertise in treatment, teaching and research related to pediatric cancer and blood disorders. Vinny’s name gives us greater visibility, but his commitment to the program gives our patients a strong and caring partner for the future.”
This won’t be the first time Lecavalier is helping All Children’s. Since 2003, he has partnered with Kane’s Furniture to donate $1,000 for each goal and $300 for each assist to the hospital. With 150 goals and 167 assists since the start of the 2003-04 season, All Children’s has made more than $100,000 from Lecavalier’s scoring success.
He also visits the hospital frequently, and entertains the children and their families in his suite at the St. Pete Times Forum.
|Working with cancer-stricken children isn’t the only charity Lecavalier or his foundation helps, but it has garnered the most attention.
Lecavalier said he’s happy to have the opportunity to give back to a community that he feels has given him so much.
“I love kids, and I love the Tampa Bay area," Lecavalier said in a prepared statement the day of the donation announcement. "So this is a cause with great meaning to me."
Working with cancer-stricken children isn’t the only charity Lecavalier or his foundation helps, but it has garnered the most attention.
Giving back is something that was imbued in not just Vincent, but his brother Phil and sister, Genevieve, at a young age by their parents, Yvon and Christiane.
“We’re very proud of our children,” said Yvon Lecavalier. “Not only Vinny, (but) my oldest son and daughter. When they were young, we tried to give them some value, taking care of people that unfortunately are not as fortunate in their life. He shows that what we teach, it’s coming back and we’re very happy.”
As a 32-year veteran of the Montreal Fire Service, Yvon Lecavalier says some of the charitable work that was part of his job must have rubbed off on his children. Also, all the Lecavalier children worked for two summers at a day camp for handicapped people.
“Maybe without knowing, maybe I gave some little bits of examples to my children,” said Yvon Lecavalier. “Maybe the examples, in Vinny’s eyes, it’s the reason he’s so generous with the community. Might be an influence on him.”
But even Yvon admitted he was surprised by just how generous his youngest son was.
“We talked about it for a couple months, but we didn’t expect it to be so big,” said Yvon, now a Tampa-area resident. “My wife and myself, we’re very proud of what it did. It’s a commitment for many years. We’re very happy.
“You’re going to play hockey like 15 or 20 years and then you’ll be retired and no one will talk to you. Outside the rink, he’s done something that will never be erased for 50 years, 60 years, 70 years, 100 years. That’s the reason it’s so important, to give back and also to be part of the community. I talk to many people in Tampa and they’re so proud that Vinny did this for their community.”
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org