For his extraordinary commitment to service, notably early literacy initiatives to help children with reading, Drew Valenti ’17 was honored Feb. 4 by the Tampa Bay Lightning as a Community Hero of Tomorrow.
Valenti was awarded $50,000 from the Lightning Foundation, half of which goes toward a scholarship for his future education, and half to a charitable endeavor of his choice. Valenti chose the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County as his benefactor to receive the $25,000.
It was an amazing night at Amalie Arena for Valenti, who has been a leader in Jesuit's Key Club for years, is a National Merit Semifinalist, and a straight-A student. With his family, Valenti visited the team bench during pregame warmups, toured the team facilities and locker room, met Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and spoke with him about early child literacy, posed for photos, and then shared a luxury suite with friends to watch the Lightning’s shootout win over the Anaheim Ducks.
The crowning moment came during a late first period timeout. The lights in the arena dimmed and the focus turned to the giant scoreboard, where a video message detailed Valenti’s accomplishments in earning the honor. Surrounded by friends, Valenti held up his custom-made Lightning jersey and received an ovation from the 20,000 fans.
The Community Heroes of Tomorrow program is part of the Lightning’s longstanding Community Hero program, which recognizes, honors, and celebrates a local "hero," and donates $50,000 to a non-profit charity of his or her choice at every Lightning home game. Since inception in 2011, the Community Hero program has awarded nearly $13 million to more than 300 local charities.
This year, a new category of awardee, Community Heroes of Tomorrow, was added. It celebrates inspiring public-spirited young people from the Tampa Bay community who have a history of past community service and volunteerism, but also have plans and ambitions to drive social change and make a positive future impact in the Tampa Bay community.
Click here to view Valenti’s recognition on the Lightning website.
Below is a photo slideshow from Valenti’s experience Feb. 4 at the Lightning game.