It was a night of illusion by magician Aedryan Methyus Friday night at the Park Hills –Leadington Chamber of Commerce annual banquet in Elizabeth Hall.
But the most magical moment of the night just might have been when Roy Henson realized he had won the Daily Journal Citizen of the Year Award.
As Dan Dunlap spoke about this year’s winner, Henson listened intently. At first, he didn’t seem to catch on.
“He is a tireless worker from Park Hills who ignores any limitations life might hand him,” Dunlap said. “His friends say he is a math whiz, a trivia king and the best darn fish fryer around. He is a big sports fan and spends his free time attending every sports event in St. Louis he can get to.”
But when Dunlap let the crowd know about the winner’s party attitude in his first semester of college, Henson began to laugh in recognition. By the time Dunlap congratulated Henson for being an inspiration to us all, the crowd was on its feet applauding, and Henson’s grin was wide enough to split his face.
“I was surprised,” he said. “I think I’m going to put this in my office.”
A number of awards preceded Henson’s.
The Chamber’s Friend award went to Karen Mohan and Virginia Blaine for their efforts to start a new bicycling event in the Parkland. Presenter Glenda Straughn said the event was so successful, participants asked that this year’s Pedal the Parkland include “a ride up a hill called Taum Sauk Mountain.”
“I don’t ride a bike, as you can see,” Straughn said wryly. “We could never have done this without them.”
Kelly Valle presented the KFMO/B104 Sweat Equity Award to Debbie Bunch, the incoming Chamber president.
“The ‘go-to guy’ is someone who, when you’re in the bottom of the ninth and it’s tied up and you need to get a run in — that’s the guy you go to,” Valle said. “Debbie Bunch has been a true ‘go-to person’ for several years.”
The KREI/KTJJ 110 Percent Award went to Mary Lee and Harvey Faircloth. Presenter Kim Long praised the couple for their work in many civic organizations and community efforts.
“This should be the 220 percent award, because each always gives 110 percent with grace, style and humor,” she said. “They’re always the first to arrive and the last to leave, and they don’t leave until everything is back in its place.”
The banquet included a buffet dinner, recognition of retiring board members Lori Ball, Diann Bess, Mary Lee Faircloth and Lois Anne Meyer; recognition of outgoing president, Chuck Odle; and installation of the 2009 officers: President Debbie Bunch, 1st Vice President Glenda Straughn, 2nd Vice President Jenni Thorn, Treasurer Anne Strangmeier, Executive Director Tammi Burns, Secretary Juanita Mahurin, Ex-officio for Park Hills Norman Lucas, Ex-officio for Leadington Mayor Larry Kennon, and Immediate Past President Chuck Odle.
The board of directors also was installed: Ron Burns, Debbie Thomure, Chuck Odle, Anne Strangmeier, Charlie Boyer, Debbie Bunch, Kelly Hamski, Glenda Straughn, Chad Bradley, Linda Dickerson, Ron Scott and Jenni Thorn.
The evening concluded with Henson’s award.
Roy Henson, 39, is probably best known for his recent fundraiser for Relay for Life.
Henson, who was born with cerebral palsy and essentially is confined to a wheel chair, has never let that stop him from achieving his goals. He graduated from North County High School and earned a degree at Mineral Area College (MAC). In 1992, at the University of Missouri, he entered a 60-yard dash for intramural games to help his floor earn points. On his MySpace page, Henson recalls, “This crazy idea led to three weeks of training in Hudson Hall to finishing the race.”
As a youth, he climbed out of his chair and played games with his peers. That continued at MAC, said Athletic Director /English Professor Tim Gray.
“He would go on his knees and play with the basketball team,” Gray recalled. “He created a tremendous attitude when he was a student.”
Henson now works at MAC as assessment room supervisor.
“He brightens my day every time I see him,” Gray said. “He always has a funny story or a joke. He’s my favorite person on the planet.”
Dr. Steve Kurtz, president of MAC, admires Henson’s dedication and caring.
“He’s an overall nice person who cares about the students and cares about the college,” Kurtz said. “He has a great sense of humor. He’s got a thing about the Chicago Cubs, though. He certainly enjoys it when the Cubs lose.”
Mark Easter has known Henson since childhood and currently works with him at MAC.
“The thing about Roy is, he never ever let the fact that he was in a chair keep him from doing anything,” Easter said. “The wheel chair is just a way to get around.”
Easter said Henson has appeared on stage several times at The Funny Bone and other St. Louis comedy clubs. Henson bills himself as a “sit down comedian.”
“He has a very dry, observational type humor,
Easter said. “He does a lot of humor based on himself and unique to his situation but he always laughs about it. He is always so great at being self deprecating in a funny way.”
Helping others, however, is not a laughing matter for Henson.
Coworker Lisa Johnson said Henson is a great friend and an inspiration to everyone he meets.
“He just never stops,” she said. “He always has some kind of fundraiser in his brain.”
Last year, Henson vowed to raise $10,000 for the Relay of Life in hopes of finding a cure for cancer. To do it, he said he would walk unaided after the Sept. 5 Central High School and St. Vincent football game. Henson’s goal was, in part, a tribute to his grandfather and friends who suffered from cancer.
Henson spent months preparing by doing leg presses in a weight room and taking practice walks on the football field a couple of times a week. On the night of his walk, hundreds of team members and fans crowded onto the field to line Roy’s route and chant “Roy, Roy, Roy!”
Amid cheers and applause, Roy made it to the 38-yard line — short of his goal, but a milestone accomplishment, nevertheless. By then, he already had raised about $5,000 in donations and sales of T-shirts that read: Roy’s 50-yard Challenge.
So far, Roy, the assessment room supervisor for Mineral Area College, has raised $8,624, but contributions continue to trickle in. He hopes to reach his goal of $10,000 by this year’s Relay for Life event in July. Checks may be made to the American Cancer Society and sent to Mineral Area College c/o Roy Henson PO Box 1000 Park Hills, MO 63601-1000.
Paula Barr is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 172 or at email@example.com.