Member Crush Monday: 2016-17 Volunteers of the Year Melissa Myers & Tracy Cheek
When Melissa Myers moved to Florida a few years ago, she knew she wanted to find a way to give back to her new community. So when it came to figuring out the perfect place to do it, the Black Hills Works IT director did what she does best: She got online and looked for ways to get involved.
“I did an actual search for sports-related (organizations) that do community development, and Florida Citrus Sports was one of the first hits that came up,” Myers said.
And the more Myers learned about the work Florida Citrus Sports and the Florida Citrus Sports Foundation do in the West Lakes community immediately surrounding Camping World Stadium, the clearer it became that she’d found her match.
“I come from a huge sports family,” the Georgia native and Georgia Bulldogs fan explained recently. “I played sports, myself, and both of my brothers did. So I felt this would be a good fit being able to go to some of the bowl games, and that’s how I initially got involved. Then once I met (Foundation director) Jill (Mickle) and (Customer Relations and Events manager) Stephanie (Marrone) at one of the breakfasts, everything just fit perfectly.”
In her first full season as a Florida Citrus Sports member, Myers won nearly a dozen items at the silent auction at Feast on the 50, which raises money for the Florida Citrus Sports Foundation’s annual summer camp. This year, Myers again went above and beyond, purchasing 11 more items.
“I am very blessed, and I like to give back, because I am a firm believer that the more you give out the more you get back in life,” Myers said. “So when Jill was talking to me about the different things they would do for Feast on the 50 and the things they would have, I absolutely had to tell as many people as I could and get involved myself.”
Myers described Feast as one of her favorite events of the season.
“I love the family atmosphere they promote,” Myers said. “They have half the field blocked off for the kids so you can get out with your family in an atmosphere where you know you have a safe environment, a fun environment and have it sports related where the kids are outside instead of on their phones or in front of computer.
“I’m an IT person I have no problems with that,” she added with a laugh. “But we need to get people outside more, interacting more, and have that fellowship that we once had when we were growing up.”
Of course, an event and an auction as spectacular as the one at Feast on the 50 can’t happen without the help of volunteers, and there are few who have contributed more time and effort to assisting Mickle with the gargantuan task of pulling the auction off than Tracy Cheek.
Also a second-year member, Cheek spends countless hours doing whatever is needed to get the auction ready to go live — an effort that truly does take an army, especially on the day of the event.
“I think it gives you an appreciation for what all goes into it,” Cheek said of preparing for Feast. “If you just go to silent auctions, you see them but you don’t really think about it. Knowing what all goes into sports and sports memorabilia in particular, it’s a lot to get all that stuff together, organized, set, priced, bidding. It’s crazy.”
Cheek, an attorney at Billings, Morgan & Boatwright, LLC, in Winter Park, says it’s an honor to be able to donate her time to help the Foundation each year.
“I think it’s a compliment that they recognize what a great community service the foundation is doing, with the programs for the youth,” Cheek said of the schools and other donors who make the auction possible. “It’s a great compliment to the great work they’re doing that people are so willing to help.”
Neither Myers nor Cheek’s contributions to Florida Citrus Sports stop at Feast, however. Both women also played a vital role as volunteer mascot handlers during ACC Championship week last December.
“I tell you, it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had — and not only from an athletic and sportsmanship area,” Myers said. “We visited the Florida’s Children’s Hospital and we also visited Give Kids the World Village in Kissimmee, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had, just to watch those kids interact with the mascots.”
Both Cheek and Myers said they walked away not only with fond memories of a unique experience, but also with a new appreciation for the students behind the costumes.
“They get very little down time, and those kids give a lot of themselves, and they were willing to give up their free time and stay longer at Give Kids the World and hang out with the kids,” Cheek recalled. “They came up to us and asked, ‘Can we get a tour of what they do here?’ after the photo ops and the high fiving and stuff. It was really cool to see that these young kids were very touched by it.”
“Each of the mascots from every ACC school was absolutely wonderful, very good with the kids, making the kids smile,” Myers added. “It was long, taxing days — three days of constant motion from early in the morning to late at night — but you could never do anything more rewarding than being involved in something like that.”
For their efforts, Myers and Cheek were each honored as two of 12 Volunteers of the Year for the 2016-17 season — a recognition that was more than deserved. Although, to hear them say it, the real reward is the satisfaction they get from the opportunity to give back.
“Being involved with Florida Citrus Sports, you know you’re involved with an organization that has a great purpose,” Myers said. “You know you’re involved in something very special.”