January 13, 2024
TAMPA, FL – The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Michelle Morales as the Lightning Community Hero this evening during the first period of tonight’s game against the Anaheim Ducks. Morales, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, presented by Jabil, will donate the money to Mr. Strong Foundation and Pinellas Education Foundation.
Morales embodies the definition of a selfless community servant, who has dedicated every day of the past 12 years to assisting special needs families navigate through the world of special needs parenting. Being the mother of a son with special needs, she is uniquely equipped to understand the challenges that can arise. She has invested thousands of hours each year founding and solely-operating the Mr. Strong Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization whose core mission is to bridge the gap for special needs children by granting them access to therapies not covered by insurance. The Mr. Strong Foundation has provided more than 50 scholarships to families for speech, occupational, physical and behavior therapies; underwritten occupational therapy services for an entire class of students, purchased adaptable toys for special needs classrooms, and so much more.
The funds from tonight’s grant will be used to continue to further and expand the unique missions of Mr. Strong Foundation and Pinellas Education Foundation. The Mr. Strong Foundation will use the funds to provide at least four scholarships to special needs children for behavioral, occupational, physical or speech therapies that are not covered by insurance, as well as sponsor at least six special needs children to attend camps that are uniquely suited for their specific needs. Additionally, they plan to host one sensory-friendly event, free of charge to approximately 100 special needs guests and their families. The Pinellas Education Foundation will use the grant to create a FUNctionable Clubhouse on the Nina Harris campus that will be open to all students to use with their teachers and therapists. The Clubhouse will be a uniquely-designed room which will provide an immersive play space experience for therapists to work with special needs children in a fun, safe, and non-clinical setting.
Morales became the 569th Lightning Community Hero since Jeff and Penny Vinik introduced the Lightning Community Hero program in 2011-12 with a $10 million, five-season commitment to the Tampa Bay community. Through tonight’s game, in total, the Lightning Foundation has granted $30.82 million to nearly 750 unique nonprofits in the Greater Tampa Bay area. During the summer of 2021, the Viniks announced that the Community Hero program will give away another $10 million over the next five seasons.
The press release is also available here online at NHL.com.