Lightning makes appearances throughout the area with strikes of kindness

Lightning players, coaches, alumni and staff “striking” 40 Tampa Bay sites with giveaways and charitable contributions.
Published September 10
Updated September 13

TAMPA — A Dunkin’ run isn’t a standard part of Melissa Wiebeck’s morning but she made an exception on Tuesday.

She and her 3-year-old Alexander popped into Dunkin’ to grab him a donut and to meet a couple of Lightning players.

Ryan McDonagh and Braydon Coburn worked the Dunkin’ counter and drive through for an hour Tuesday morning, spending $750 to cover customers’ orders. That was just one of the appearances the Lightning made as part of their “Strikes of Kindness Day.”

The team (players, coaches, staff, alumni, broadcasters and executives) made 40 stops around the area, going as far as Orlando. They volunteered, interacted with fans, and made donations.

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All told, the team gave away $100,000 in charitable donations and also bought more than $2,000 worth of food for fans to deliver to teachers and first responders around the area. That doesn’t account for swag bags and ticket giveaways.

The NHL gave the Lightning $100,000 as winners of the Presidents’ Trophy (given to the best regular-season team). Jeff Vinik, who is part a group of local investors who in 2017 loaned $12 million to the Times Publishing Co., didn’t know the Trophy came with money. When they found out, he and CEO Steve Griggs decided to share it with the community.

“It’s just a big part of our DNA to get our employees out there in the field, engage and work with some of these organizations,” Vinik said, during an appearance at Feeding Tampa Bay. “So immediately, we knew we wanted to make this an important day.”

They could have just written a check, but the Lightning wanted to do more. They added volunteer work, fan giveaways and player appearances for random strikes of kindness.

One Dunkin’ customer was right on message. McDonagh pointed out that on Dunkin’ customer’s shirt was right on message. “A little kindness can change everything,” read 17-month-old Riley Small’s pink tee.

Small’s dad Lance works nearby Dunkin’ and he wasn’t expecting to find Lightning players when he dropped in for his coffee. Nor was Jon Fiddelke when he pulled up to the drive through with his Lightning-branded credit card in hand.

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“Aw man, look,” he called to his 3-year-old twins Olivia and Jacob, upon seeing McDonagh in the window. He repeated how great this was and rolled down the back window for his twins to wave to McDonagh. When asked, though, Olivia said her favorite players are Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.

Milan Kratz, another 3-year-old, shyly took her bag of munchkins from Coburn, but reached up to shake his hand when her father Tim prodded.

The Strikes of Kindness initiative involved the entire organization. All of the Lightning’s players and coaches made appearances. Alumni like Mathieu Garon, Dave Andreychuk, Adam Hall, Ruslan Fedotenko made stops. Griggs and Phil Esposito visited the mayors of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater with customized jerseys. Broadcasters Rick Peckham, Paul Kennedy and Greg Linelli were in on the effort.

The team spread the $100,000 between Goodwill, Feeding Tampa Bay, Humane Society, Metropolitan Ministries, Southeastern Guide Dogs and Junior Achievement – Finance Park. They also had about 100 staff members volunteering at those sites.

The Lightning made stops at Dunkin’, Chick-Fil-A and Tropical Smoothie to treat fans. They brought breakfast to first responders and 100 smoothies to teachers at Rampello Elementary School in Tampa.

Victor Hedman and Jon Cooper delivered swag bags to patients at Tampa General Hospital. Tyler Johnson and Mathieu Joseph did the same at MacDill Air Force Base.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at Follow @dianacnearhos.