Parade of Athletes banquet another big success

Sebring Firemen Inc. and Highlands Today hosted the 3rd Annual All-Highlands Parade of Athlete’s banquet this past weekend. The third annual was the most successful banquet thus far, yet I was a little sad to see the evening end.

I assumed it was because we spent months planning this event and in a few hours it was over. Days later I could not shake the feeling. I then realized that I have been publisher of Highlands Today for as long as the student-athletes that we honored have been in school.

During those 12 years, I have watched them grow up right before my eyes. We at Highlands Today have cheered for their wins. When they had setbacks and losses, we knew it built character and life lessons. I have some of their momentous front pages framed in my office, including when the boys (now young men) brought home the title of Champs from the Dixie Ozone World Series. Their photos are right next to my family’s photos.

It has been such a privilege to watch them grow up in our print and online publications and I pray that they have continued success in their lives. In the media business, we make many difficult decisions which at times can be very grueling and sometimes thankless, but providing an outlet for covering youth and high school sports is one of the most inspiring aspects of my job. I look forward to watching the next wave of athletes rise to the occasion and work hard to make the All-Highlands Parade of Athlete’s team.

At the banquet, all of the top athletes from high schools and private schools in Highlands County were brought together to celebrate and be recognized for their hard work and dedication, and they all received plaques or certificates. Spirit awards were given to the senior cheerleader who showed the most school spirit from each school. Scholarships were awarded to those who displayed best character on and off the field, those who earned the highest grade point average, and a male and female athlete of the year.

Overall, $6,000 in scholarships were distributed. Athletes from Ridge Area Arc Special STARS were honored and received a donation. Eric Zwayer, Highlands County’s Tax Collector and a former Sebring High graduate and athlete was the keynote speaker. Mayor John Shoop was one of the emcees of the evening.

The banquet was incredible from beginning to end and made possible by many employees at Highlands Today. A special recognition goes to Mark Pinson, Highlands Today’s sports editor, and Karen Clogston, Highlands Today’s event coordinator, for all their hard work.

The following from the Sebring Firemen Inc. worked tirelessly on this event: Jim Fortner, chairman; Charlie Taylor, president; Tommy Lovett, Sr., Clint Culverhouse, Kiko Vazquez, Andrew Bible, Dave Travers and all the Sebring Firemen members and spouses that prepared the meal. Hats off to all the banquet volunteers that live the Rotary motto – service above self – I thank you!

Special recognition goes to the following sponsors which made a difference to so many that earned a scholarship and donation: Florida Hospital Heartland Division, Alan Jay Automotive Network, Bible Fellowship Church, Bill Jarrett Ford, Heartland National Bank, Rotary Club of Sebring, Florida Citrus Sports, First Baptist Church of Sebring, Avon Park Champions Club, Alan Homes Edward Jones, Lake Placid Athletic Association, Sebring Custom Tanning, Grace Bible Church, Taylor Oil Co. Inc, AXA Financial Advisors and Highlands Independent Bank.

A special salute to all of the scholar-athletes; well done and congratulations! Highlands Today will be cheering you on.

Tina Gottus is publisher of Highlands Today.