TAMPA, Fla. — Eleven years ago, Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and then-CEO Todd Leiwicke started the Community Heroes Program. The organization gave $50,000 checks to charities and community organizations in the Tampa Bay area.
"Community is critically important to both of us. We wanted to be a critical element of the DNA of the Tampa Bay Lightning," Vinik said via video chat. "Todd points to me, I pointed to Todd, about having a hero program and honoring a hero at the TV timeout of each game."
Over 550 TV timeouts later, the program is still going strong.
"Along the way, we’ve been able to reach out to those who help with educational needs, and health care, and homelessness. Every story is unique," he said.
This week, Vinik announced a five-year extension of the Program. He and his wife Penny will donate $10 million to keep supporting local charities.
"It’s a very proud time for me," Vinik said. "Not only winning the Cups, but announcing this extension of the Community Hero Program and seeing this whole Tampa Bay community develop, economically, also."