Hard work by outreach programs to help local youth sometimes can go unrecognized by the general public.
On Saturday, the Hall County Sheriff’s Department wanted to recognize one such group, the Lanier Soccer Association.
The LSA was presented with the first-ever Hall County Sheriff’s Office Community Spirit Award as part of its Shark Shootout soccer tournament at the Allen Creek Soccer Complex in Gainesville.
“We’re extremely flattered,” said Grant Kevins, director of LSA. “It’s always great to bring attention to our program and to have the sheriff come out and present the award is a big deal.
“It’s a great thing for us and the community. It’s a win-win deal.”
The LSA has an estimated 1,500 players in its program.
“We wanted to recognize the Lanier Soccer Association for all the outreach they do for the youth in our community,” said Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch. “As I told them earlier, a positive impact on one child is phenomenal. But when you impact so many, it is really good. They instill team spirit, teamwork, honesty and integrity, good sportsmanship in all these children, and those are just some of the many attributes that make up a good citizen.
“So we wanted to recognize them for that effort and we look forward to having this as an annual event and other groups that contribute to our community and make it a better place.”
Gary Marx, coordinator of Saturday’s tournament said parental involvement helped make the association and the tournament possible.
“They understand that through the community of soccer that’s built there, their students can have sound minds and sound bodies and build character,” he said. “Whenever you have leaders in the community who provide an award like this, it says to us ‘we are the glue that holds the community together.’
“It’s that kind of contribution that makes all those hours on the soccer field and all that investment by the parents worth it.”
Couch added, “We have a lot of good folks here and there are so many people who give their time and effort to promote and encourage children. We wanted to recognize that. This is just the first of many. It was very fitting that they (LSA) get the first award. As you can see, look at the (number) of kids they touch.”
Darren Wilton, a parent of one of the youth’s whose life has been impacted by the LSA, called the association “great” for what it does for the community.
“This is all about the kids,” Wilton said. “I think it’s important in their youth life. I think it’s great we have this in our backyard and the LSA does such a great job in making all this happen.
“There’s a lot of teachings about good health here (at LSA), about coordination and technique. The training and sportsmanship has really been a great influence on my kid’s life.”
With so many youths and teams in the LSA, Wilton added, “We (parents) all have the same kind of goal in helping our kids succeed and having them have good leadership on these teams, and have them learn about youth sports and lead them in the right direction.”