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SYA Holds Awards Banquet

Coaches, Athletes and Volunteers Honored

The Southwest Youth Association (SYA) honored its coaches, athletes and volunteers, Saturday night at the Westfields Marriott, at its annual volunteer banquet.

Some 220 people attended the event. Dignitaries included Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-11th), Del. Jay O'Brien (R-39th), Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Katherine "Kate" Hanley (D), Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) and Supervisor Elaine McConnell (R-Springfield).

Congratulating SYA on "another great year," Davis quoted a phrase by former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, who said, "When you put a child together right, the world takes care of itself." Said Davis: "That's what SYA has been doing for years."

SYA acknowledged a special group of outstanding athletes, each playing a different sport. But besides their sports prowess, they were feted for their academic achievements and community service. "These kids have done a lot of good things in the community," said former SYA President George Chernesky. "And they're representative of the kids in the Centreville/Clifton [area]."

Then each sports' commissioner honored his or her coaches, coordinators and other exceptional volunteers and gave them plaques. "We're all proud of our children," said soccer commissioner Jeff Stein. "We give them a good time, and we do it because we love them."

The commissioners also noted their appreciation for all Chernesky's years as SYA president. Afterward, Presidential Awards were given to non-SYA members who've particularly supported the organization. Recipients included Frey, McConnell, Hanley and Tom Reynolds, owner of Modell's Sporting Goods in Fair Lakes. Reynolds donates part of his proceeds from sales to SYA members to the group's Fields of Dreams fund-raising campaign.

Board of Directors Awards were given to those who've made a significant contribution to SYA: Jackie Hogue, retiring board of directors secretary; Terry Sutton, former Little League commissioner; Dave Vennergrund, former basketball commissioner; Dennis Legendre, SYA vice-president; Bill Pruitt, in charge of the SYA Web site; Gary Harding, retiring wrestling commissioner; and Scott Patton, retiring softball commissioner.

With nearly 15,000 young athletes, it takes 5,000 volunteers annually to keep SYA running. "Tonight, we honor you for what you've done for our children," said Chernesky. "Children are our most precious resource for our country. What you do makes a big impression on them, and we thank you for it."

Current SYA Pres. Gary Flather recognized Chernesky for his "leadership, direction and visionary thinking" and gave him a clock engraved with those words. SYA also gave George and wife Cheryl a certificate for a vacation.

Next came a video tribute to Chernesky, including photos of him with the SYA teams he coached and pictures of children playing the various SYA sports. Lastly, Flather introduced the new SYA board members: Peter Cuomo, vice-president; Mike Campbell, secretary and Bryan Hunt, treasurer.