It’s an unlikely city for hockey – on Alt Nation (Sirius) I routinely hear DJ’s complaining about the cold months and then saying “but if you’re in Florida never mind.” We’re known for palm trees and beaches and sweat in January… hockey seems out of place. But Tampanians love the Lightning!

Jeff Vinik buying the Lightning was a catalyst for the Lightning and I. Vinik brought Tod Leiweke in as CEO (a Seattle –> Tampa transplant like us), and I’ve been amazed at their attention not just to hockey, but to community. Seattle rallied around it’s teams with gusto, and Tampa is doing the same as the Lightning continues to embed itself into this city.

Robyn and I first met Tod Leiweke at a Bright House event early this year. We spoke briefly about our shared love of Seattle and our time there, and that was it. Months later, we sat down with Tod to discuss the Lightning being involved with Because of Ezra’s third annual Karaoke for the Kure, and were honored to have them support so strongly (someone won a unique and memorable experience of Lightning Owner for a Day at our event, and someone else – Tom Petty suite tickets!). To Danna at the Lightning, a big thank you as well. Your help has been tremendous.

We were touched already by a NHL team whose CEO would sit down and listen to our story of Ezra and who would show such support. As the topic turned to Charles, our 15 year old son whom we’d adopted just this January (2014), Tod empathized with his story, and asked if he could spend some time with him. We said we’d love that, and so would Charles.

Months went by and Robyn and I never reached back out to the Lightning, as things got pretty tough in our home with Charles. Eventually, I reached back out to Tod to explain our months of silence, sending him a link to my Medium post. A warm response and conversation ensued, and a few weeks later one of the folks at the Lightning emailed me to come by Amalie Arena, and had a bag waiting with this in it:

CHARLES

We’re bringing it to Charles next week, Thanksgiving week. I haven’t opened the letter, as it’s addressed to Charles.

Since losing Ezra I’ve often told people Because of Ezra is our real passion, and we pay the bills through our for-profit projects. Tod exemplified this to us, utilizing his position to help and inspire. Robyn and I will forever be fans of the Lightning for bringing people on board like Tod Leiweke, and for Jeff Vinik’s ownership – his involvement with the community has been impressive and speaks volumes of his heart.

To the Tampa Bay Lightning, to Tod Leiweke, and to all of us who continue to recognize the brokenness around us and offer our hands to help, thank you.

 

Kyle Matthews