Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos is truly a hero on the ice, but he’s surely a bigger hero off the ice. These guys on the Lightning do so much for the community that sometimes makes the news or the Lightning’s cameras, but they do a lot that never makes it to the headlines. And that, to me, makes them heroes themselves as they give their time selflessly, not just for the press or recognition. According to a nurse on the pediatric ward of a local hospital, a couple of the players come in and spend time with the children there. With no cameras, no reporters following them around. They read to the children. They play board games. They reach over and hug them, and show them that they aren’t afraid or too good to touch them. I’ve seen more than one member of the Lightning organization volunteer at my son’s school. One in particular spends countless hours there, and what tugged my heart strings was I pulled up one day to see him knelt down playing ball with a child in a wheel chair.
In January Dave Andreychuk and Thunderbug helped children that were hospitalized in St. Joseph’s choose winners in three age categories. Eligible children are between the ages of 5-18 years old. Parents, guidance councilors, teachers, and neighbors nominate children by submitting stories detailing their heroic acts and selfless deeds. Almost 170 children from Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, and Polk counties were nominated over a six week period.
On March 27th, Steven took part in honoring children at the St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital’s 16th Annual Kids Are Heroes awards ceremony. Local celebrity Jack Harris told each child’s story in tribute. The families enjoyed dinner and entertainment throughout the evening. Steven presented every nominee with a trophy presented by St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. Winners in each age category received additional special gifts.
Winners in the 5-8 Year Old Category
THIRD PLACE – Callee Connon, Pinellas County, St. Petersburg This hero spent six weeks running 11 lemonade stands, used 27 pounds of lemonade, and encouraged countless neighbors to help raise donations to buy bikes for underprivileged kids for Christmas. She called it “Bikes for Buddies” and raised more than $2,000 through donations in exchange for a free cup of lemonade. Thanks to her successful fundraiser, she was able to deliver 33 bikes to the Christmas Toy Shop.
SECOND PLACE – Campbell McElaney, Pasco County, Land O’ Lakes This hero has the same name as a famous brand of soup. So, each year instead of accepting gifts for her birthday, she asks guests to bring cans of this particular brand of soup instead of presents. After her birthday party, she takes the soup cans to a community food bank to help feed families in need. So far she has donated a total of 3,295 cans – and she’s only 6 years old!
FIRST PLACE – Sophia Rosenberg, Hillsborough County, Apollo Beach This hero’s mother had a major anaphylaxis reaction to a new medication. Her mother called 911, but moments later she collapsed and stopped breathing. Sophia quickly retrieved her mother’s EpiPen and administered it, and is credited with saving her mother’s life. She helped the response teams when they arrived and stayed by her mother’s side while they stabilized her and took her to the hospital.
Winners in the 9-12 Year Old Category
THIRD PLACE – Logan Agnew, Hillsborough County, Carrollwood From an early age, this hero with a generous spirit has enjoyed giving more than receiving. After two of his friends were diagnosed with leukemia, Logan used his own birthday and Christmas money to start the Tampa branch of LEGOS for Leukemia. He recently donated more than $1,500 worth of LEGOS to St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, and the toys will be used to help entertain and comfort hospitalized kids throughout the year.
SECOND PLACE - Jasmine Johnson, Hillsborough County, Town N’ Country This hero saved her caregiver’s life by quickly calling 911 when she began having stroke symptoms. While waiting for help, she called other important contacts and kept her caregiver’s 5-year-old daughter calm. Her quick action is credited with saving her caregiver’s life.
FIRST PLACE - N’Jhari Jackson, Hillsborough County, Carrollwood This hero is involved in several projects that help local hospitalized kids and encourage young boys to read and discuss books. He started a “Boys Read with Pride” program, and the book club continues to grow and is now helping kids at three different elementary schools. He also raised funds to help deliver blankets to the families of wounded veterans, and delivered pajamas and toys to children in the hospital on Christmas day.
Winners in the 13-18 Category
THIRD PLACE – Ben Schulte, Hillsborough County, Plant City On a mission to earn his Eagle Scout Service Project, this long-time Boy Scout took on the task of building the Plant City Police Department a K9 unit training course. His efforts and project leadership resulted in a new K9 training course complete with nine obstacles. Now, the K9 team no longer has to drive to another city to train, and they have even won several K9 unit competitions due to being able to train their dogs on a regular basis.
SECOND PLACE – Keith Purvis, Hillsborough County, Plant City While swimming at his apartment complex pool last year, this hero saw a 2-year-old boy fall into the water. None of the adults noticed the child go into the water, and within seconds he began to sink. Keith grabbed the young child from the bottom of the pool and worked fast to get him out of the water. If not for his quick action, the young child could have become a victim of the number one cause of death for kids under 4 in Florida — drowning.
FIRST PLACE – Weeki Wachee High School Football Team, Hernando County, Weeki Wachee These heroes came together as a team to support their high school principal’s son, who is undergoing treatment for cancer. More than 60 Varsity and Junior Varsity players shaved their heads in honor of the 13-year-old, who is battling cancer for the third time in his young life. The heroes also created T-shirts and wristbands, hosted fundraisers and started a trust to help with the family’s medical bills.
I could not find video of this year’s ceremony, however, here is a video from 2011.