story and photos by Brittany Ransom
More than 200 volunteers, staff, parents, members, and other supporters came together on Wednesday (March 12) night for the 2014 Fort Smith Boys and Girls Clubs Annual Awards Banquet.
Sponsored by the Fort Smith Boys and Girls Clubs Alumni and Friends Association, the evening kicked off with dinner and the opening of the silent auction. Several gift certificates and gift baskets were included in the auction, along with a number of home decor pieces and memorabilia.
Daren Bobb served as the evening's emcee and introduced the evening's special guests and jumpstarted the awards presentation. Two special honors were handed out, including the "Champion of Youth" Award and the overall "Sponsor of the Year" Award.
Dallas Forsgren, was named "Champion of Youth" for his continued leadership and commitment to the Fort Smith Boys and Girls Clubs. Forsgren serves as physical properties chairman on the organization's board of directors. His family's business, Forsgren Inc, has a long history with the club, having sponsored programs and activities for more than 40 years. In addition to his board duties, Forsgren conducts an annual fundraiser to provide College Scholarships for Club members and coaches midget league football.
Smith Auto Group was presented the "Sponsor of the Year" Award. The local family owned business has been involved at the Boys & Girls Clubs for more four decades. Owner John Smith, Jr., who serves as a member of the FSBGC board of directors, follows in the footsteps of his late father John M. Smith, Sr., and grandfather Mose Smith, who also served as board members. The company has sponsored numerous football, basketball and baseball teams and has been instrumental in providing support to the afterschool shuttle program. Smith Auto Group recently donated a brand new Chevrolet 15-passenger van to help expand FSBGC's shuttle routes.
Each of the four Fort Smith Boys and Girls Club Units then presented awards to its respective Youths of the Year. Youth of the Year is the "premier recognition program for Club members, promoting service to Club, community and family; academic success; strong moral character; life goals; and poise and public speaking ability." Honorees included:
• Nick Fenby, Evans Unit;
• Brittany DeShryver, Goldtrap Unit;
• T.J. Whitmore, Jeffrey Unit; and
• Cassidy Jackson, Stephens Unit.
Units also presented "Volunteer of the Year" Awards. The selection process for the "Volunteer of the Year" allows Club volunteers to vote on the top volunteer recipients for each unit. More than 400 volunteers are active at the Fort Smith Boys & Girls Clubs participating in a variety of programs, including mentoring, tutoring, sports, arts and fundraising. Recipients were:
• Troy Eckelhoff, Evans Unit;
• J.P. Sonnier, Goldtrap Unit;
• Patricia Copeland, Jeffrey Unit; and
• Gary West of Stephens Unit.
Following the awards presentations, Bobb introduced the evening's special guest speaker, Andy Core. Core, a Fort Smith native and FSBGC alum, is a well-recognized motivational speaker, TV personality, and author. His most recent book, "Change your Day, Not your Life” serves as a realistic guide to sustained motivation, more productivity, and the art of working well.
"It is great to be able to give back and say thanks," said Core. "Growing up, the Club was a safe place for me and my brothers. It was where we found support and encouragement. It instilled in us the importance of teamwork and hard work, values that have served me my entire life."
Core cited several stories and concepts from his recent book, encouraging guests to adopt a "challenge vs. threat" mentality, by viewing life's obstacles as challenges to overcome, rather than threats to be feared. He also stressed the importance of focusing on the execution of one's actions, rather than focusing solely on desired outcomes.
"We are very proud to have the opportunity to honor each of the outstanding members, volunteers, and club supporters this evening," said Jerry Glidewell, FSBGC Executive Director. "Our organization is fortunate to have such a strong membership base and support system in the community who enable us to touch the lives of thousands of kids each year."
The Fort Smith Boys and Girls Clubs operates four units, as well as Hunts Park on Dodson Avenue. The organization boasts membership of more than 3,300 and has served the community for more than 85 years. Fort Smith Boys and Girls Club is a United Way of Fort Smith Area Community Partner.