A full house was in attendance Thursday evening at Cleveland's First Baptist Church, as the Ocoee Region of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes celebrated its 10th anniversary.Area Director Robert …
A full house was in attendance Thursday evening at Cleveland's First Baptist Church, as the Ocoee Region of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes celebrated its 10th anniversary.
Area Director Robert Green has guided the regional chapter through this first decade, the staff growing one to 13, and the annual budget rising from $11,000 to around $500,000.
Accolades of that growth, Green's accomplishments, FCA's impact on the region, and the anticipated path ahead, were discussed Thursday evening.
This region of the FCA currently covers 26 schools in a four-county area, with more than 50 Huddle groups, reaching over 1,800 athletes and 180 coaches.
Many of those athletes and coaches participated in Thursday night's program.
Green emphasized the program for this year's banquet was quite different than in the past. There was no keynote speaker, but a collection of FCA staff, students, coaches and others who shared the spotlight.
There were an abundance of testimonies on the life-changing impact of the FCA on people's lives, including an eighth-grade student, an elderly educator, and many in between.
Several joined Green at the podium as they reflected on the first 10 years of FCA's Ocoee Region, and it's phenomenal growth and success.
There were also recognition, awards, and an outstanding meal served by members of the Lee University women's basketball team.
Included in the FCA testimonies were four former coaches from the Cleveland City Schools system; an introduction by Green of the Ocoee Region FCA staff; the announcement of the annual Student Athlete of the Year (the Chris Legett Memorial Scholarship); and an announcement of a new, annual award.
For the first time ever, the Ocoee FCA Region selected an FCA Coach of the Year, and this award is to be be presented each year at the banquet.
Winner of the first Coach of the Year Award was McMinn County's Bo Cagle.
In accepting the honor, Cagle told how the FCA has helped him to change his life, and made him a better person, husband, father, coach and friend.
His wife, Jennifer, and several McMinn County athletes and coaches stepped up to praise the award-winner.
This year's Athlete of the Year was Meigs County's Brantley Baker, who played basketball and baseball for the Tigers.
Richie Hughes joined Green in presenting the annual award to Baker, and several members of the Legett family were in attendance.
Other high school athletes recognized included Alyssa Avratin of Bradley Central High School, Melia Baker of McMinn Central, Bailey Grubb of McMinn County High, Anna Grace Jackson of Walker Valley High School, Matthew Passmore of Polk County High, and Anna Renshaw of Cleveland High.
Participating in a discussion with Green on the importance of the FCA, and how it has impacted their personal lives, their families, and the students they've worked with in sports and in the classroom, were former Cleveland coaches Donnie Yates, Eric Phillips, Jason McCowan, and E.K. Slaughter. All are still very active with the FCA.
The evening began with a welcome from Richie Hughes, leading to a blessing and the meal.
Green then discussed the founding, and growth of the FCA Ocoee Region. He reflected on the FCA's mission, "To work through the coach, to seek ministry first to coaches hearts, marriages, and families, then minister through coaches to their fellow coaches, teams and athlete leaders.
He repeated a comment from the late evangelist Billy Graham, "A coach will impact more people in one year than the average person will in an entire lifetime."
FCA staff members recognized by Green included Administrative Assistant Teresa Green; Heath Eslinger, who works with wrestling coaches; McMinn County Rep. Cody Smith; Meigs County Rep. Heather Kirkland, Character Coach and Coordinator Zach Clevenger; Polk County Rep. Stephanie Greene; Female Athletes Director Sandi Kramer; Field Ambassador Donnie Yates; Tennessee Wesleyan intern Emily Liner; Chad Pike, who assists Eslinger; and United Way Americorps VISTAs Amanda Fisher and Tyler Payne.
Kirkland, and several others, talked about the FCA Huddle at Tennessee Wesleyan University, which has grown from a hand-full of member to near 60. They discussed how it has impacted the lives of many students, and others at the school.
Some former Athletes of the Year were in attendance, including Natalie (Miles) Passmore, from Polk County High School, who was the first student honored in 2012.
The scholarship was established by the Legett family to honor Chris Leggett. Chris paid the ultimate sacrifice in 2009 in Africa, while ministering with his wife and children.
A number of FCA board members were at Thursday's banquet. The board includes Shane Gibson (chairman), Matt Dillard, Charlie Mizer, Chari Buckner, Greg Calfee, Byron Whittington, Dr. Gary Voytik, John Dixon, Larry Carpenter, Andy Lee, Todd Walker, Marcia Botts, Gina Allison, and Matt Carlson.
Also at the banquet were state representatives Dan Howell and Mark Hall; State Sen. Mike Bell; and Cleveland councilmen Dale Hughes and Tom Cassada.
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