Lightning’s Community Heroes Program Honors Valrico Foundation

Lightning_USE7There is no way to get over the loss of a child. In 2006, when Valrico residents, Laura and Vin Marchetti lost their 16-year-old daughter, Katie, in a car accident in which she was not wearing her seatbelt, they wanted to do something positive so that others would not have to go through what they did. The Katie Marchetti Foundation was established to bring hope to those with similar losses and to bring awareness about the necessity of seatbelt use. It took three years, but in 2009, with the help of State Representative Rich Glorioso, the Dori Slosberg and Katie Marchetti Safety Belt Law was passed in Florida.

At the Lightning game on Saturday, January 18, Laura Marchetti, along with husband Vin and her parents, Dianne and John Sipe, were honored through the Lightning’s Community Heroes program for their work accomplished through the Katie Marchetti Foundation.

Lightning owner, Jeff Vinik, and his wife, Penny, launched the Lightning Community Heroes program in 2011. LightningLaura & Vin Marchetti with parents Dianne and John SipeWorking with CEO, Tod Leiweke, they determined the organization would distribute $10 million dollars to deserving Heroes throughout the Tampa Bay community over a five-year period. At each of the Lightning’s 41 regular season home games during the past two and a half seasons, the Lightning Foundation has awarded a $50,000 check to a non-profit charity.

Elizabeth Frazier, Executive Director of the Lightning Foundation, has the privilege of overseeing the selection of the Community Heroes and leading the honored Heroes backstage for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Lightning community. “Our Community Heroes are considered part of the Lightning family. The Hero program is more than donating $50,000 to deserving non-profits. Our Heroes have the opportunity to visit the player’s bench and locker room prior to meeting with Mr. Vinik and being presented with the check for their organization. They are given the opportunity to learn what the Lightning organization is all about.”

The Katie Marchetti Foundation was nominated by the instructors from More Health, Inc., a local organization that provides both student and parent education in schools throughout Hillsborough County and beyond. The Katie Marchetti Foundation was the 105th non-profit to be recognized by the Lightning Foundation. The instructors at More Health applauded Laura’s efforts for spreading the word regarding safe driving, wearing a seatbelt and being instrumental in changing the state legislation for seatbelts. They share Katie’s story with students hoping to convey the importance of understanding the impact that  one decision to not buckle up can make and how it can affect the rest of their lives.

According to Karen Pesce, Executive Director of More Health, they have teamed up together to provide a clear, consistent message on wearing seatbelts. Pesce said, “We were very supportive of her [Laura] efforts to ask the legislature to make seatbelts a primary offense.” The $50,000 received by the Katie Marchetti Foundation was turned over to More Health, Inc. to be used to help continue to provide funding for its educational programs to area students.  The funding will support the Trauma Lesson and other safety lessons it teaches.

Visit www.katiesstory.com for more information on the Katie Marchetti Foundation and www.morehealthinc.org for information on More Health, Inc.