Local resident and A Kid’s Place youth counselor Sharon Alvarez was a recent recipient of the Tampa Bay Lightning Community Heroes Award.

The Lightning Community Heroes program is the signature philanthropic initiative of the Lightning Foundation and has been lauded for its innovative contributions throughout the sports community.

In 2011, Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, along with his wife, Penny, launched the program as a collaboration with the Vinik Family Foundation and the Lightning Foundation to celebrate deserving heroes and distribute funding to nonprofits throughout the Tampa Bay community.

Recently, A Kid’s Place employee Sharon Alvarez was honored as the recipient. She is a youth counselor at A Kid’s Place and loves working with the children at the local nonprofit.

“I’m known for my cooking,” Alvarez said. “The kids love when I cook and always want to help when I do cook for them. When a new child comes into A Kid’s Place, I ask them what they like to eat, and I do my best to make it for them. It’s a way for me to get the child to open up.”

Since it was established in 2011, the Lightning Community Heroes program has been honored to celebrate a local hero and donate $50,000 to a nonprofit charity of its choice at each home game, where celebrating the community heroes has become a beloved signature moment. To date, the program has honored more than 575 heroes and distributed more than $31M to nearly 750 unique nonprofits.

Alvarez did not know she was nominated for the Tampa Bay Lightning Community Heroes Award.

“I had no idea I had been nominated for the award,” Alvarez said. “I was at a staff meeting where I got an award for being at A Kid’s Place for 15 years. Then they asked me to come into the office after the meeting, and that’s when they told me I won. I had no clue.”

Alvarez was truly honored to be nominated.

“I was happy just to be honored at A Kid’s Place with the 15 years of service award,” Alvarez said. “It was amazing winning the Hero Award. The ultimate prize was that A Kid’s Place was presented with $50,000 that will help our organization.”

Plans for the grant funds are to continue to further and expand the mission of A Kid’s Place, including a Mental Health Pilot Program.

If you would like to learn more about the Tampa Bay Lightning Community Heroes Award, you can visit their website at www.nhl.com/lightning/community/community-heroes. For more information about A Kid’s Place of Tampa Bay, visit https://akidsplacetb.org.

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Libby Hopkins
Libby Hopkins has been a part of the Brandon community for more than 30 years. She is a graduate of USF with a degree in journalism. She has been a freelance writer for The Osprey Observer Newspaper since 2008. She also the Executive Director of Center Place Fine Arts and Civic Association. She is a dog mom to her rescue dog, Marshall. She loves being a part of the Brandon Community and she loves sharing positive news about our community.