TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning, The Identity Tampa Bay and Vinik Sports Group today announced a month-long series of initiatives during Black History Month in February designed to celebrate African American history while also building a better foundation to promote equality now and for future generations. These elements include a variety of activations, including digital and social media, live events, community outreach, financial grants and more.
The month of February will focus on four pillars, one per week. The first will feature the launch of the organization’s Black History Month efforts, including a look at some of the landmarks and history in Downtown Tampa. Week two will highlight programs being spearheaded by the Lightning Foundation, including the annual Bolt Run, which will benefit underserved middle school students through Academy Prep Center of Tampa, the Everfi 306 program, which focuses on African American history, as well as outreach with Safe & Sound Hillsborough, focusing on building safer and healthier local communities. During the third week programming will focus on education and community hockey, centering around providing information and promoting discussion through the documentary, “Willie”, which is based on the life and career of Willie O’Ree, the first black player to skate in the NHL. Finally, in the final week of February, VSG will look forward. First, along with their great partners at CHASE, the organization will provide a minority-owned business grant, while secondly launching a new program, Backing the Bay, to highlight and support local small businesses. The inaugural honoree will be a minority-owned business and will be announced at a later date.
The Lightning began celebrating in January, honoring the great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the MLK Day holiday. They also participated in the NHL’s effort to celebrate equality on and off the ice with a helmet decal depicting O’Ree along with the words “Celebrate Equality”. These decals will be worn throughout the month of February. Also, heading into Black History Month, the Bolts awarded one of the organization’s Community Hero grants to Les Miller. Miller spent 10 years as a Hillsborough County Commissioner and has committed himself to causes that provide growth opportunities for African American students, even endowing a scholarship at his Alma Mater, the University of South Florida.
Below is a complete list of the month’s initiatives:
Week One – Black History Launch Week
2/4/2021 – History Center Walking Tour & Jackson House Video Distribution
- Vinik Sports Group Staff recently participated in a walking tour of “the Harlem of the South,” Tampa’s Central Avenue District, to learn about life in Tampa’s African American community from the 1890s through the late 1960s.
- The Jackson House, which is on the National Registry of Historic Places, is part of the tour. In 2019, Jeff and Penny Vinik donated $1 million to restore the building that once operated as a boarding house for African Americans, including Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald, during racial segregation.
Week Two – Foundation Programs
2/8/2021 – Bolt Run
- Run with the Distant Thunder as part of the 20th Annual Bolt Run, presented by AdventHealth, throughout the Month of February.
- A portion of each registration will be donated to benefit Academy Prep Center of Tampa, whose vision is to transform lives of underserved middle school students by being a model of foundational and academic excellence in preparation for high school, post-secondary and career success via the Lightning Foundation.
2/11/2021 – Everfi 306 Program
- In September of 2019, the Lightning Foundation expanded their grassroots Black History programming as they partnered with Derrick Brooks Charities and the Hillsborough County School System to offer the Everfi 306 digital learning program to all Middle School Students in Hillsborough County Public Schools.
- The 306 African American History program informs and inspires today’s students through the stories and themes of African American women and men who have overcome obstacles through grit, strength, creativity and intellect.
2/13/2021 – Safe & Sound Teen Sports Clinic at King Forest Park
- ThunderBug, alum Jassen Cullimore and the Lightning’s Community Hockey team will be kicking off a sports clinic for 30 local teens at noon.
- Safe & Sound Hillsborough works with local agencies, communities and jurisdictions to develop a strategic plan that prevents violence; coming together for the sole purpose of making a collective investment in the health and safety of the Tampa Bay communities and the people who inhabit them.
Week Three – Education & Community Hockey
2/17/2021 – WILLIE documentary initiative and Community Hockey visit at the Jeff and Penny Vinik Boys & Girls Club at Winston Park
- 3-5 p.m. – Starting with a ball hockey clinic, followed by a WILLIE documentary discussion and character program.
- “Stick” to his message – will bring hockey stick tape for the kids for them to write a word or quote that resonates with them as part of Black History Month.
2/15/2021 – Leto High School Hockey Team WILLIE documentary viewing and character building.
Week Four – Looking Forward
2/27/2021 – CHASE Minority-Owned Business Grant
- CHASE will provide a $5,000 small business grant to a local minority-owned business.
- The grant is part of CHASE’s Small Business Recognition Program
2/28/2021 – Backing the Bay Launch
- New monthly program supporting local small businesses.
- Inaugural honoree will be an African American-owned business.
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