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Community members honored by Boy Scouts at American values dinner
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Tommy Aaron is awarded the Ralph Cleveland Distinguished Citizen Award during the American Values Dinner in Gainesville, on Thursday, Mar. 1, 2018. The dinner featured keynote speaker Greg McGarity, the University of Georgia athletic director, as well as Tommy Aaron, Tony Herdener and Ben Lancaster, who were awarded the Ralph Cleveland Distinguished Citizen Award. - photo by David Barnes

The Boy Scouts of America once again honored members of the community at its annual Gainesville American Values Dinner at the Chattahoochee Country Club on Thursday, March 1. Alongside them was the night’s keynote speaker, Greg McGarity, athletic director at the University of Georgia.

“I can see the impact they’ve made, especially financially, of helping us with whatever donation they give us,” said Leo Manzo, Chattahoochee district executive for the Northeast Georgia Council. “The sponsorship they give us, it really goes all toward the kids.”

Tommy Aaron, Tony Herdener and Ben Lancaster, the men honored at the event, have all donated to the Northeast Georgia Council, supporting things like facilities, campsites and assistance for Scouts in Northeast Georgia. All the money raised from the event went to the council as well. 

The night was filled with thanks, from the ones who presented the awards, to the honorees who thanked the community for recognizing them. 

Aaron brought a lot of attention to his hometown of Gainesville after winning the 1973 Masters Tournament and said there is no other place he would rather live. His win at the Masters is one of the brightest spots on his long career, and he had a lot to say about it as he spoke at the dinner. Most importantly, though, he said he was just thankful to the community.

“I feel very humbled to be here tonight,” Aaron said. “I feel very honored to be recognized as one of Gainesville’s outstanding citizens because I’ve always thought Gainesville was special.”

Tony Herdener recently retired as the chief financial officer for the Northeast Georgia Health System. He helped grow the hospital in Gainesville to what it is today. During his time as CFO, he saw the health system’s assets grow from $240 million to $1.8 billion.

“I’ve got a lot of teammates here, and a lot of teammates throughout the community,” Herdener said.  “(Nothing) would ever have happened without the likes of the people in this room.”

Ben Lancaster, chairman of the board and treasurer of Crystal Farms, was the last to be honored. His son, David, presented the award to him and shared a poem he found that described what a father is and what his father has been to him over the years.

“It’s been a great honor, and very much of an honor for me tonight to receive this award,” Ben Lancaster said.

The last person to speak was McGarity, who focused on two American values and what they mean from his perspective. He ended the night sharing stories of the athletes and community around Georgia’s athletic program that displayed hard work and the goodness of humanity.

“I always enjoy being in an environment where people are so selfless,” McGarity said. “I love to hang around people that do great things. I love to be around people that don’t talk about themselves.”

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