The Boys & Girls Club of Sierra Vista celebrated its annual “Great Futures Dinner” Saturday evening, where 15-year-old Bianca Lopez was recognized as “Youth of the Year” for her leadership, service and academic achievements.
But Lopez wasn’t the evening’s only honoree.
In a surprise announcement, Ric Boyer, who is the club’s board president-elect, introduced two new additions to the annual celebration: “Woman of the Year” and “Man of the Year.”
Helen Manring has been named as the local club’s first-ever Woman of the Year and Joe Kraps as Man of the Year.
The club established the honor to recognize the “extraordinary, continuous and outstanding contributions” they have made to the Boys & Girls Club of Sierra Vista. It’s an honor the club plans to continue through the years.
“We’re starting this as a new tradition,” said Boyer. “We have several dedicated board members supporters within the community who are deserving of this recognition.”
In Sierra Vista the club got its start a little over 20 years ago, said Boyer, who called Manring to the podium first, praising her years of service to the club and passion for the young people it serves. He also praised her success as a fundraiser and “go-getter” personality.
“Our club has particularly benefitted from her generosity,” Boyer said. “In fact, some would say, but for Helen and the recipient of our Man of the Year award, we would not have the club today,” Boyer added. “Her efforts, dedication and insights have been an integral part of the club’s success. We are extremely grateful for Helen’s contributions and what she has done for our community’s youth…”
Helen and her husband Gene Manring have been Sierra Vista residents since 1973, have raised seven children and are well known for their continuous contributions to the community, said Boyer.
When it comes to the Man of the Year recipient, Joe Kraps was recognized as a founding member of the club and for his involvement with the organization since it opened its doors in 1996.
Kraps has served as a past board president and has been dedicated to the club ever since. He and his wife, Gale are longtime Sierra Vista residents and have supported the club through a number of fundraisers. They raised their daughter in Sierra Vista and have one grandson. Kraps is a car enthusiast and is a board member of the Sierra Vista Car Club. The car club works closely with the Fraternal Order of Police to raise funds on behalf of the the Boys & Girls club and the young people it serves, said Boyer.
The Woman and Man of the Year awards were presented toward the end of the Great Futures Dinner, held at the Boys & Girls Clubhouse in Sierra Vista before about 80 attendees.
During his introductory remarks, Boyer spoke of his own experiences with the Boys & Girls Club and how those experiences redirected a destructive path. Boyer, who is a U.S. Army Infantry Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame inductee, says none of his life’s accomplishments would have been possible if not for time spent in the San Pedro, Calif. Boys & Girls Club. He has been a staunch supporter of the organization, its programs and mission since.
Similar stories resonated throughout the evening. Along with Boyer, keynote speaker John Kapranopoulos spoke of his Boys & Girls Club experiences and how they served as a solid foundation for years to come.
Closer to home, Jay Hamwright, the local club’s current chief professional officer, said he started with the Sierra Vista club while in elementary school and was a member through high school. He spoke about the homework help and tutoring the club offered, the sports activities and the mentoring he received. “I fell in love with the club right away,” he said in an interview. “The homework help and sports are what helped me most. I also liked the community service projects we were involved in.”
Then there’s current club members Bianca Lopez and Nathan Gauthier, both 15, who spoke of how the Sierra Vista club has become their second family.
“I love the experiences I’ve had at the club,” said Gauthier, who is the club’s runner-up Youth of the Year, right after Lopez.