TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – They smiled. And smiled. And smiled. After all, this was a special day.
On this day, a community was healing amidst heartache. There was new life, a rebirth, as some described it, in Seminole Heights.
It was a Monday afternoon all about heroes where a spark of light was provided by, who else? The Tampa Bay Lightning.
Members of the team were in the community to sign memorabilia and with each stroke of a pen, a new chapter was written about this brave, strong neighborhood.
“Today is a special day for me, personally, just to see everyone here, and everyone back out and smiling again,” said team captain Steven Stamkos, as he posed for pictures at Brew Bus Brewing.
Stamkos gave hugs to hundreds of fans and praised this community once in crisis, now filled with hope.
Just a few streets over, chatting side by side with Police Chief Brian Dugan and hundreds of hockey fans, sat another athlete with a heart of gold.
“We heal as one. It’s great to see these kids smiling and everyone out here again,” said Lightning forward JT Brown. “We want people to know that we are here for them.”
For one family, this is a moment of gratitude after the arrest. They’ve lived in Seminole Heights for 20 years and had never seen anything like the recent serial killer case. The news of a capture last week was what they, and many others, had been hoping for all along, after 51 long days.
“We were watching it live, it broke during News Channel 8 at 4. We were watching it at home, and my husband and I were just saying, ‘they got him, they got him, they got him,'” said Stephanie Anello.
Turns out, the timing of this meet and greet was perfect. Stephanie’s son, Augie, just completed a school project on good citizens doing good deeds. His pick?
The six-year-old got his school project signed personally by the team captain. But, when asked what it was like to meet the lightning great, Augie grinned and shook his head.
“It’s just really surprising…that…I…” he paused. “I’m speechless.”
That’s exactly how many fans felt as they got to go face-to-face, up close and personal, with their hockey favorites. The Bolts bolstered spirits through the streets of the neighborhood.
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