TAMPA, FL (WFLA) – Tony Colton, 16, fell in love with the Tampa Bay Lightning from a hospital bed. Sports was one of the only channels in his room. In 2011, he was diagnosed with undifferentiated sarcoma. He describes it as a “fleshy tumor.”
“I had such pain in my abdomen,” Colton remembers. “We originally thought it was appendicitis. We found out it was my kidney.”
His cancer came back five different times. During his fight, he used sports to keep him positive. In fact, the floor Colton spent a lot of time on at John’s Hopkins All Children’s Hospital is sponsored by the former Lightning player Vinny Lecavalier.
“It was even kind of Lightning themed,” Colton said. “Knowing he donated the money to that really gave me a different perspective on hockey players.”
Now seemingly cancer-free Colton constantly attends charity events for pediatric cancer. He spends time advocating for the cause. That’s why the Bolts named him the 45th Lightning Community Hero of the 2015-16 season.
“I don’t normally get nervous but to have the spotlight on me during the game and the camera on me was crazy,” Colton said. “To hear everybody clapping, it was a surreal moment for me.”
Along with the award comes a $50,000 donation. He’s proud to give that money to All Children’s Hospital, the Pediatric Cancer Foundation and Sarasota Christian High School. What impresses Colton the most about his favorite team is what they do off the ice.
“The players are always so nice to me and make time to talk to me before and after interviews,” Colton said. “Coach Cooper will text me and call me to check on me. He even visited me in the hospital. It’s amazing how personal he can be even though he’s so busy.”
Colton aspires to be a doctor someday and eventually be able to give back even more by writing a $1 million check to charity. You can follow his journey here.