By Derek Blanchette
Sometimes the best gift you can receive is given to someone else. That sentence makes little sense without context, but hear me out.
Back when I was 6, I received what I thought to be the greatest gift ever. It was a replica of the car "KITT" from "Knight Rider," and it was quite amazing. It had moving parts (this was a big deal in 1986) and six buttons you could hit to make it talk. I was amazed by it and wore it out to the point that it didn't work four weeks later.
Now, that was a great gift, but on June 30, I had to move "KITT" down on the list. A group of family friends had come together to put on a benefit for my father. Led by the efforts of Rob Cornwell, the entire Esielionis family, Todd Shoemaker, Jamie Clark and David Cote along with Calvin Moore and the countless number of people who donated prizes, money and everything else imaginable, an amazing night came together.
People by the hundreds came by to share stories, pass on kind words and offer their support to my father's battle back from a series of strokes.
Everywhere I turned, I was stopped in my tracks by people, most I knew, some I didn't, who heaped praise on the efforts of my father to make their kids' lives a little better. Men who grew up with my father told me stories of how he'd been a stand up guy ever since they'd known him.
It was a celebration of a man who hates be celebrated.
The night was made even more special when the man of
But on this night, you could see a little bit of the old Ken come out. It was a mixture of being overwhelmed, touched and honored that so many people would take time from their lives to show him gratitude.
My father always tried to teach me to be humble: That the best way to go about things is to do your job well and accept that as your reward: That being singled out for praise didn't need to happen if you were happy with your performance. It is how he has lived his life and while I have not always done my best at following his lead, I admired him for how he went about his business.
So for him to see so many people gathered in one place to honor him was probably a bit shocking to him. His goal throughout his 27 years at the paper has been to be the person out of sight who pushed others into the spotlight. The one who brought to everyone's attention what everyone else had accomplished.
What he didn't understand is that, while he was doing what he wanted to do, he was also gaining the respect and admiration of everyone he came across for the countless hours he was putting in.
What June 30 proved was that for every 8-year-old baseball tournament, for every hockey game played at an odd hour, for every summer league basketball game played in a sweltering gym in July, for every football game played in a downpour, there was one constant, and it was my father.
So I want to thank everyone who helped with the event and those who showed up to help push my father out of the shadows and into spotlight.
No one ever deserved it more.