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Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's 'Heroes' program hits $10 million

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn (55), left, hugs Sister Claire LeBoeuf, the 197th Lightning Community Hero of the year, on Monday (12/28/15) before the Tampa Bay Lightning game with the Montreal Canadiens at Amalie Arena in Tampa. LeBoeuf founded Everyday Blessings which provides residential group care for children in foster care as well as child placement services for area foster and adoptive families. LeBoeuf received a $50,000 donation in honor of her work in creating the nonprofit. The Lightning Foundation’s Community Hero program reached the $10-million milestone tonight, five years after Tampa Bay Lightning chairman and governor Jeff Vinik, right, along his wife Penny Vinik, pledged $10 million to Tampa Bay area non-profits over five seasons, money which was to be granted through deserving grass roots community heroes in Tampa Bay.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn (55), left, hugs Sister Claire LeBoeuf, the 197th Lightning Community Hero of the year, on Monday (12/28/15) before the Tampa Bay Lightning game with the Montreal Canadiens at Amalie Arena in Tampa. LeBoeuf founded Everyday Blessings which provides residential group care for children in foster care as well as child placement services for area foster and adoptive families. LeBoeuf received a $50,000 donation in honor of her work in creating the nonprofit. The Lightning Foundation’s Community Hero program reached the $10-million milestone tonight, five years after Tampa Bay Lightning chairman and governor Jeff Vinik, right, along his wife Penny Vinik, pledged $10 million to Tampa Bay area non-profits over five seasons, money which was to be granted through deserving grass roots community heroes in Tampa Bay.

TAMPA — Lightning owner Jeff Vinik said he didn't know what to expect when he started the "Community Heroes" program five years ago.

Vinik and his wife, Penny, pledged to donate $10 million to local nonprofit charities, spread out over $50,000 grants awarded at each home game.

And after the project hit $10 million Monday with the 197th hero, Sister Claire LeBouef, Vinik said he plans to keep it going in some form for years.

"Clearly this is a big part of our game presentation, it's a big part of the DNA of the Lightning organization, and we feel very strongly about it," Vinik said. "There may be a twist on it, may change things up a little bit. But this is so fantastic what we're able to do and the impact we have. And why wouldn't we want to keep doing that? And helping people and changing lives."

Vinik said he's the "luckiest guy," having met the beneficiaries, which are nominated at tampabaylightning.com/heroes and selected by the Lightning Community Advisory Committee, made of community leaders and season ticket members. The heroes are honored from their suite during the game.

"The quality of 197 is every bit as strong as the quality of No. 1," Vinik said.

After the milestone was recognized in a JumboTron montage, the screen panned to Vinik, the crowd erupting in a standing ovation. The board read, "Thank you."

Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's 'Heroes' program hits $10 million 12/28/15 [Last modified: Monday, December 28, 2015 9:55pm]
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