Tampa Bay Lightning Saves This Addict’s Life
Could hockey really help prevent an addict from using drugs? Could the sport really serve to save an addict’s life? Well, “Bolts superfan” Laura Henderson says “Yes!” And her Tampa Bay Lightning obsession seems to back up that affirmation most emphatically.
Supporting the Tampa Bay Lightning
Father’s Day 2022. A gaggle of people are gathered on a far-off corner of Tampa International Airport. The people are all draped in a curious mix of white, black and blue. Tampa Bay blue. They’re also all carrying signs. Most of those signs are in some way supportive of the Tampa Bay Lightning. A few simply say Happy Father’s Day! Some shout both, with a mix of rah-rah that could galvanize a stone. Yes, it is that purely positive.
Laura Henderson is leading the charge of cheers. No surprise since she’s been at the front of all such charges for the past few years. To Henderson, the Bolts are the be-all and end-all. The team also happens to be downright lifesavers. And she’s determined to show her support in any way, shape and form, as often and as loudly as possible. That includes airport arrivals and departures, even when they lose.
Such is the case this Father’s Day, which is probably why an inordinate amount of signs feature Dad. Then again, when a team returns home having lost their first two games in a series, they could use all the support they can get. That goes double when those games happen to be the first two in the Stanley Cup Finals. Even more when the second was lost by a score of 7-0.
None of that lessens Henderson’s support, or her resolve. After all, the Tampa Bay Lightning have brought home the Stanley Cup twice in the last two years. More importantly, they’ve served as Henderson’s own personal support mechanism. Something representative of the best our world has to offer, be it in sport or in recovery.
Finding the Tampa Bay Lightning
For Henderson, that representative something feels like real family. An inspiring greatness that’s larger than herself.
“It just means so much to me, just to be part of something bigger,” she tells Bay News 9’s Tim Wronka.
Henderson had the same sentiment when Tampa Bay Times reporter Mari Faiello caught up with her at a Sparkman’s Wharf Game 1 watching party.
“(Being around other fans like this) makes you forget about everything else going on in the world. You’re a part of something bigger.”
Henderson hasn’t always had such a thing. She lost her mom when she was still very young and grew up in foster care. Then she also suddenly lost her adoptive father – to suicide. It was a devastating blow.
“He was the only person I really had,” she told Wronka. “When he was gone, I lost the will to live.”
Henderson turned to drugs. Lots and lots of drugs. Then things got even worse.
“Drugs actually led to me being a target for traffickers,” she told ABC Action News’ Rochelle Alleyne. “And I got caught up in that life for many, many years.”
Until 2018 in fact. The website Henderson’s traffickers used was shut down and she was able to leave town for Tampa. But though Henderson had freed herself from the traffickers, she still hadn’t free herself from the drugs. So she checked herself into treatment.
Nearly a year later, someone Henderson had met through the program gave her a couple tickets to see the Tampa Bay Lightning. She’s been a devoted superfan ever since.
Love at First Night
“I’ll never forget that first game,” Henderson says now. Sure there have been hundreds of games since then. There have also been countless practices, watch parties and airport runs. For Henderson continues to greet the team at the airport when they’re leaving and welcome them back whenever they return.
Now, over three years later, Henderson has not only been able to stay sober, but she’s firmly on the side of sobriety.
“I don’t miss a thing [about that past],” she told Wronka. “Life is too short. A lot of my life was taken advantage of for so many years. Being able to make my own choices in life now, this just helped me.”
It’s also providing Henderson the opportunity to help others, including the good folks at the Pasco County Commission on Human Trafficking and the St. Petersburg Police Department’s PATH unit. Henderson serves as a community liaison for those who turn to these local organizations seeking to get out of the life. In other words, she provides just the kind of one-on-one communication that can get those in need to fully open up and receive assistance.
Healing Properties congratulates Laura Henderson on her sobriety, as well as her inspired new life. We also thank her for bringing her story to others. It often takes an example to get folks to finally make a move; Henderson is serving as a life-affirming example.
We’d also like to thank the Tampa Bay Lightning for being such an inspirational force, in sports as well as the community. Thanks too to all those who brought to light Henderson’s inspiring story, including Tim Wronka and Bay News 9, Rochelle Alleyne and ABC Action News and Mari Faiello and the Tampa Bay Times.
We’d also to thank the Pasco County Commission on Human Trafficking, the St. Petersburg Police Department’s PATH unit and the Pasco County Alliance for Substance Addiction Prevention (Pasco ASAP). In fact, ABC Action News (WFTS) deserves special recognition for prefacing Henderson’s inspiring story with a clip from Pasco ASAP. The PSA features Pasco County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Sudler advocating for the use and availability of Narcan. Sudler, a veteran detective who has appeared on Live P.D. certainly knows the dangers of overdose. And we commend him, the station and Pasco ASAP for attempting to stop it in its tracks.
Or we should say every skate of the way?
(Image courtesy Laura Henderson | Twitter)