Honorees go above, beyond
BY TONI CASHNELLI
The basketball nets over their heads reminded guests what Friars Club is all about:
Friday at its 46th Annual Community Dinner, Friars showed its supporters that their help is appreciated – then asked them to help some more. Most of these folks long ago lost their hearts to this cause: Give kids the chance to be kids and the opportunity to become good people. With sports as the hook, sportsmanship is the goal.
The theme of the fund-raiser, held in Friars’ gussied-up gym, is service to others. This year’s dinner recognized three who teach by example. Philanthropic restaurateur Dean Gregory received The Francis Award for his commitment to the needy, our troops and neighborhood schools. (He also donated the chicken-and-ribs dinner from his Montgomery Inn.) Former football standout Troy Tuck was given The Friars Award for founding the nonprofit Gameplan program to mentor young people in need. And senior guard Trevon Blueitt was named Player of the Year for leading the Xavier Musketeers to three NCAA tournaments.
Longtime emcee Rob Braun, a TV anchor whose Local 12 station is a media partner, keeps coming back because, he said, "I’ve been a fan of Friars Club all my life."
Rob Braun with Friars Kids, ready to hand out t-shirts.
Friar Mark Soehner gave his first Invocation for the event as Provincial Minister, with a prayer that those gathered would "celebrate Your energy reflected in the young." A brief, kinetic video projected on the walls of the gym featured the faces of youngsters at play. "What do you think about Friars?" a young basketball player was asked. "Love it!" he hollered on the run.
Executive Director Annie Timmons thanked those who planned the evening, particularly Maureen Sweeney and Jeanette Altenau, and those who have sponsored Friars Club from the start. Franciscans founded the club 158 years ago so working families could have "a safe, supervised place for their children to go," Annie says. That mission has evolved beyond basketball to include volleyball, baseball, a learning center and a summer program.
For those who, like Annie, were raised in an abusive or neglectful household, "We are still about giving opportunity," she said. Forty years ago, "I found a family at Friars Club" thanks to former Friar-Director Maynard Tetreault, who gave Annie a job. And Friars is still here "to give those children an opportunity to be all that God wants them to be."
That message was instilled early in Dean Gregory, recipient of the Francis Award – the same award Friars Club gave his father, Ted, in 1990. Philanthropy came naturally, Dean said. "Growing up, it was always ingrained that we would give back. My father was always the first to hold a fund-raiser," and often told his children, "Give ‘til it hurts, then give some more."
Accepting the Friars Award, Troy Tuck credited his parents for his success and thanked Friars Club "for entrusting me to give back. It doesn’t take an important person to serve," he said. "It takes time and energy and effort." Troy was inspired by a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., who said, "Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’"
The tributes to Trevon Bluiett began in a video preceding the Player of the Year presentation. "He’s helped elevate our program to a new level," according to Xavier coach Travis Steele. But it was Trevon’s dad, Reynardo, who gave the best testimonial: "Every person who comes up to me says he’s a great kid."
After his junior year, Trevon passed on the NBA draft to return to Xavier and complete his education. "I thank God for putting me in this position, for allowing me to be here," he told the audience. "I’ve been playing basketball since I was a young kid. I’m happy that at-risk children in Cincinnati have the same opportunity thanks to Friars Club."
There was more to come as guests withdrew bidding paddles shaped like basketballs from their program packets. Bob Herzog, the boisterous co-anchor of Local 12’s Good Morning Cincinnati, presided over the live auction of five big-ticket items donated to raise funds for Friars. A born wheeler-dealer, he prodded, cajoled and entreated his audience to pony up thousands in bids.
Later that night on Local 12 news, Rob narrated video footage of the event alongside co-anchor Cammy Dierking. She observed, "You’ve been involved with Friars Club a long time."
"I played there when I was a kid," he told her, "and now I’m trying to help out a little bit."
Once a fan, always a fan.
Br. Scott Obrecht of Friars Club with Wayne Carucci and John Estep