After wing Ryan Callahan signed a six-year, $34.8 million deal with the Lightning in June 2014, he wanted to try to find a way to give back to a Tampa Bay community that has felt like home for the Rochester, N.Y, native.
And with Callahan, 31, and his wife, Kyla, raising two young daughters, Charlotte, 4, and Evelyn, 2, a cause soon became clear: pediatric cancer. Kyla's family had been impacted by the cancer, which will be the focus of the Ryan Callahan Foundation, officially launched Friday.
Callahan had already created "Cally's Crew," inviting pediatric cancer patients and their families to Lightning home games in his suite the past two seasons. That will remain, as will a "2-4" Club, make-a-wish type of trip, all-expenses paid, granted to a selected child and his family each month. Callahan's foundation will also work to fundraise, and create awareness.
In talking to Callahan last season about it, he explained what inspired Cally's Crew, which he hoped would also create a support system for those impacted.
"The big thing was once me and my wife had our kids, we couldn't imagine putting ourselves in those families' shoes where they're in and out of the hospital, what they're going through on a daily basis," Callahan said. "Cally's Crew got started to get the families away from it for three hours, let the familes enjoy it. I'm happy to help."
Callahan would meet those kids and their families post-game, posing for photos and often bringing teammates.
"It puts things in perspective very fast for you," Callahan said. "To see how much impact we had on these kids lives and how we can brighten their day, it's something we should do and we've got to do in the position we're in. And I enjoy doing it. "