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Striking back at cancer

A Tampa lawyer and the Tampa Bay Lightning are teaming up to promote cancer awareness at tonight's game against the Washington Capitals.

By TOM ZUCCO

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 5, 2000


photo
[Times photo: Fraser Hale]
Steve Yerrid hopes to give away thousands of tickets and T-shirts for tonight's Tampa Bay/Washington Capitals game for the Tampa Fights Cancer night at the Ice Palace.
His name was Joey Ruiz and he was a Make-A-Wish kid. He had brain cancer, and his wish was to go to France.

That intrigued Tampa lawyer Steve Yerrid, who worked with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Why France?

"He said the reason was that there's a place in France called Lourdes, and the waters there can heal people. He said, "I know I need to go there because I don't want to say goodbye to my mother.' "

Last June, the foundation flew the 14-year-old to France. Two months later, Joey became gravely ill.

"I remember walking around the block outside All Children's Hospital in the rain," Yerrid said. "I was looking for an explanation, a reason why bad things happen. By the time I got back inside, Joey had passed away.

"That's kind of the way this thing started."

This thing is tonight's Tampa Fights Cancer night at the Ice Palace. Yerrid has donated nearly 6,000 tickets (and an equal number of yellow T-shirts) to the 6 p.m. game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals. In addition, the Lightning and Yerrid will donate $2 each from every single-game ticket sold to tonight's game to cancer research.

Yerrid, 51, has the wherewithal to make an impact. A successful trial lawyer, Yerrid has $200-million coming to him for helping Florida win its multibillion dollar lawsuit against the tobacco industry.

"I've done better than I ever thought I would," he said. "Now, I can support a number of things that make a difference in people's lives. I honed in on pediatric cancer because children had nothing to do with getting it."

The tickets were distributed to 14 Tampa Bay area cancer organizations and hospitals, including All Children's Hospital, the Pediatric Cancer Foundation, the Ronald McDonald House and Tampa Children's Hospital.

"There will be other events," Yerrid said, "but I want to make the first event the best. And if I could have a thousand nights like this, I'd do it."

The Lightning hope to make Tampa Fights Cancer night an annual event.

"A few years back, John Cullen, one of our players, and Debbie Demers, the wife of (former) coach Jacques Demers, had bouts with cancer," Lightning president Ron Campbell said. "Cancer has touched everyone, including our organization.

"So when Steve Yerrid approached us about doing this, it fit like a glove.

"I hope this will be a night when kids and the people who take care of them can put a smile on their faces and forget about the disease for a little while."

Even the players, Campbell said, will be affected by the children and the sea of yellow shirts.

"You wouldn't be normal," he said, "if a night like this didn't impact you somehow."

For ticket information, call (813) 301-6600.

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