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Kiwanis Club honors Roark with top award

POSTED: March 13, 2013 1:11 a.m.

Rhett Roark spent more than 8,000 hours over 16 years volunteering his time to coach youth baseball players.

A staggering number, Kiwanis President Phil Bonelli said, stressing the importance of the quality of that time over its quantity.

In his time with athletes, Roark drew out important life lessons, Bonelli said.

“Accept criticism and make yourself better. If you’re going to do it, do it right. Stop doing something not when the time clock is up, but when it’s complete,” he said. “What greater legacy could be left in the hearts and minds of young men?”

For his efforts, Roark was awarded the Kiwanis Club’s John Jacobs Jr. Youth Service Award, the club’s highest honor, Bonelli said.

“Rhett taught players to respect the game. Our recipient didn’t just talk the talk, but walked the walk,” he said. “He stayed as long as the last player wanted to stay.”

Bonelli spoke about the man for whom the award is named, Jacobs.

“Much of his philanthropy went to children and youth,” he said. “Children are our future, and there’s no greater community service than service to youth. This award is not for business achievements but someone who rendered service to our children.”

“Our recipient’s true legacy is found in the comments of the parents who nominated him,” he added, quoting a parent’s words, “‘To be honest, I have seen my son handle situations in a calm and non-condescending way and I know where he learned those skills.’”

True to the humility Bonelli said Roark embodied, Roark appeared both overwhelmed and humbled by the honor.

“This is more than I could ask for,” Roark said, choking back emotion at the podium as he thanked the club and his family.

That award came at the conclusion of a three-hour evening of live entertainment at the Chattahoochee Country Club in Gainesville.

German-born Carla Nicholson and husband Michael Nicholson, internationally renowned performers, presented renditions of Broadway show tunes.

The duo commenced the night with a rendition of “Cabaret,” famously sung by Liza Minnelli.

The couple strutted between the crowd members with bravado throughout the evening, performing other hits including “Razzle Dazzle” from “Chicago,” “On My Own” from “Les Miserables” and “If I Were a Rich Man” from “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Several local leaders, including Hall County Board of Commissioners Chairman Dick Mecum, Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch and state Rep. Carl Rodgers, attended the dinner.

Those officials were also there to see Gainesville High School senior John Stenzel get the John C. Thompson Award, presented by Eddie Hartness, chairman of the Youth Service Award committee.

“This young man is just so impressive. As I got to know him, I thought, ‘Wow, I wish I were more like him in high school.’ Then I thought, ‘Wow I wish I were more like him now,” Hartness quipped to laughs.

A gracious Stenzel accepted the award with his parents in attendance.

“Key Club has been the highlight of my high school career,” Stenzel said. “I’m almost sad that it’s winding down.”

Stenzel will be attending Georgia Tech in the fall.


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