Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Chamber awards shine light on Blaine County's brightest

Awards dinner goes off without a hitch

Express Staff Writer

Citizen of the Year Cynthia Murphy is chair of the Wood River Community YMCA. Photo by Willy Cook

The Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau's annual awards ceremony brought the communities' philanthropic citizens, organizations and business together for a night of well-deserved recognition Saturday, April 21, at the River Run Lodge near Ketchum.

"They are so humble for what they do," said First Bank of Idaho President Bryan Furlong of the award winners. "Time is a pretty precious commodity, and they have all given so much to this community."

Behind every civic-minded individual or organization there is a network—a support system of sorts—that makes their efforts possible. This notion was not lost in the speeches given by award winners.

For the past seven years, Citizen of the Year and chair of the Wood River YMCA Cynthia Murphy has watched the Wood River Valley grow and change in unpredictable ways. Throughout that time Murphy and her team of dedicated full-time staff, part-time staff and more than 100 local volunteers have worked diligently to ensure the YMCA changed along with the needs of the community, particularly with construction of a major new facility in Ketchum.

"I would like to thank everyone for allowing us to become a part of this community and a part of the kids' lives," Murphy said. "The most important thing we do is break down barriers ... and in doing so we help make this community what it is."

Youth Citizen of the Year and Wood River High School senior Whitney DeBree was the first honoree of the evening, an evening during which she would the last school dance of her high school career.

"You know, a funny thing happened to me on my way to Senior Prom," DeBree said.

That funny thing, of course, was being awarded in front nearly 200 local citizens, civic leaders and various pillars of the community for her efforts over the past year. Although an incredibly active-minded and independent-thinking young lady, DeBree thanked the students of Wood River High School and in particular those who joined the environmental club she started and those who traveled with her to Boise to hear Al Gore speak on Global Warming at the Frank Church Conference last winter.

Silver Creek Outfitters in Ketchum is this year's Business of the Year, and owner Terry Ring has deflected the success of his company's philanthropic endeavors at every turn. Ring placed the credit for this award firmly on his employees and their initiative.

"Our employees are really what Silver Creek is all about," Ring said. Ring also acknowledged the Wood River Land Trust for the work it has done in preserving riparian areas and maintaining the health of local rivers and streams.

Since moving from the East Coast five years ago, Youth Advocate of the Year Bob Corker has brightened children's lives throughout the Wood River Valley. Corker has volunteered his time to the Blaine County Recreation District as a soccer coach, to the Sun Valley Center for the Arts and to the Education Foundation of the Blaine County School District.

The Education Foundation is comprised of an all-volunteer board and acts as the charitable arm of the Blaine County School District.

"I am really not up here to talk about myself," Corker said. "There are so many who do so much here."

Corker thanked his wife, Elizabeth Schwardtle, who is the co-president for the Hailey Parent Teacher Organization and an active advocate for the youth of the Wood River Valley in her own right.

"She does so much for the community," Corker said.

Environmental Advocate of the Year Chris Leman of the Big Wood Backcountry Trails received the award for a decade's worth of work. The organization works in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to improve Blaine County's trail systems through redesign efforts and pure grassroots cleaning and maintenance.

"I would like to thank all the volunteers for their efforts," Leman said.

Leman also mentioned last year's Environmental Advocate, seventh-grade team teacher Scott Runkel, who heads-up The Community School's Activism 101 class in Sun Valley.

"Scott Runkel taught me that seemingly small efforts can lead into big things," Leman said.

Sun Valley Center for the Arts was awarded with the Arts Advocate of the Year for its continued efforts to bring artistic stimuli to the Wood River Valley. Since Glenn and Bill Janss founded the organization in 1971, The Center has worked diligently to ensure students, seniors and everyone in between has access to art in all its mediums. Executive Director Sam Gappmayer credited his grandparents for the "transforming experience" and the role art played in the healing process following World War II.

Gappmayer spoke of how his grandparents "loathed Germans" after the war and yet could not escape the contradiction between the actions of some and the "beautiful music from their descendents."

The Rotary Club of Ketchum and Sun Valley was honored with the non-profit organization of the year. President Torene Bonner and Past President Rick Davis accepted the award on behalf of the 1.2 million Rotarians worldwide.

"Just think how many lives have been saved as a result of the humanitarian efforts of those people," Davis said.

The local Rotary Club has been a mainstay on the philanthropic circuit in Blaine County for years. "We have very committed group of people who really enjoy giving back to the community," said Bonner in an interview.

Chamber Ambassador of the Year Kim Rogers works as the public information officer for the Ketchum Police Department and contributed a great deal of her own time as a volunteer ambassador for the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau.

"I do enjoy giving back to this community," Rogers said. "I am dedicated to the success of this area and I really love participating."

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