Hailee McLean is one of a rare and precious breed, an authentic Wood River Valley local. Although born in Salt Lake City, she became a valley resident before she was one month old and is clearly very proud of her hometowns.
"My whole family lives here, my brother and his wife, my sister and her husband, my parents ... we all live within four blocks of each other in Bellevue." Her husband of six months, Dennis, is also a valley original; he was born at the Hailey Medical Clinic. "Yes, we're natives! There aren't very many of us left."
And there are certainly not many who can say they do quite as much for their communities as the spirited McLean. Living in Bellevue, working in Hailey for Wood River Insurance, a member of the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber Ambassador program and involved with the Ketchum Rotary Club, she spreads her charm and goodwill all across this valley.
It is her role as a Chamber ambassador and last year's chairperson that has won her the community award Ambassador of the Year. "I made the decision to join the ambassadors because I wanted to give back to the community I grew up in, to go out and make other people happy."
The Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitor's Bureau's ambassador program has gone from strength to strength in the past few years, in no small part due to McLean's involvement.
"An ambassador's role is to keep local business' happy and content, to keep them part of the community, because that's what's important," McLean said.
As an ambassador, McLean is the face of the Chamber. It's her job to meet and greet members of the business community and convince them that joining the Chamber will benefit them, as well as the community. With her charming smile and effervescent personality there can't be many failures in her past.
"I really enjoy it, I enjoy talking to people, that's what I like to do! So it's fun for me to go out and meet new people and the business' up there (in Ketchum)."
Last year, the ambassadors held their first fundraising event, The Spring Prom, spearheaded by McLean. "Years and years and years back they had The Spring Prom here, and we decided to resurrect it."
Having resurrected the event they are not abandoning it. "This year the prom is on April 16, and we've decided to create a scholarship," she said. "Twenty-five percent of whatever we make for the ambassadors, we'll donate to a scholarship for the Chamber's Youth Citizen of the Year."
McLean adores her work with the community, and to be recognized for it clearly makes her almost as happy as her recent marriage to her childhood sweetheart. "It's a real honor and I'm really excited about it, but I'm still shocked at the same time! It's a great program and I'm really, really fortunate to be associated with it."
Just talking with McLean about all her community activities is exhausting. In the course of last year, not only did she organize the Spring Prom and the Rotary's annual Duck Race, fulfill her duties as an ambassador with honors, and successfully hold down a full-time job, but she also planned and executed her wedding, where the 230 guest ate food prepared by the bride. Being raised in a small town is clearly good for your soul, and your organizational skills.
Make dinner reservations
The 8th Annual Community Awards Night will be held at the River Run Lodge on March 18. Social hour will begin at 7 p.m. and dinner and the awards ceremony will begin at 8 p.m. Local veteran entertainer Chris Millspaugh will perform "The Way I See It" after the awards ceremony. Tickets are $45 per person. Call Angela Shetler at 725-2103 or e-mail your reservation request to firstname.lastname@example.org.