Sports on all levels – high school, college, amateur and professional – are celebrated at the annual fundraiser and awards program of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission. This year’s event, perhaps one of the most successful, completely filled the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel. Attendees at the event were an amazingly varied group. They included a number of grade-school sports fans, corporate sponsors, previous award winners and many professional athletes.
The evening began with the 1,400-plus guests enjoying a social hour throughout the hotel. Several areas had silent-auction items, which included premium sports experiences for spectators and memorabilia from professional athletes. This was a time when many of the younger fans, and quite a few of their parents, had a chance to meet some of their favorite professional athletes.
Not all of the autograph seekers were youngsters. Among the most popular guests throughout the night was Austin Carr. His contributions as a Cavaliers player, as well as his continuing support of the local team through his broadcasting duties, earned him the Lifetime Achievement Award. Part of the award is based on Carr’s continued charitable activities, which are extensive.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer is a supporter of the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards in a special way. The paper sponsors tables for high-achieving high school athletes. Dan Foldesy of North Olmsted and Zach Martin of Avon Lake attended as representatives of the Saint Ignatius High School soccer team. It was appropriate that these student athletes were present, because the Commission honored the University of Akron men’s soccer team in the Collegiate Athlete of the Year category. Also, Foldesy will attend the University of Akron next year.
Guests at dinner filled the Renaissance’s Grand Ballroom, both on the main floor and the balcony. Much of the buzz of the evening was that Erin Andrews of ESPN served as host for the program. One of the event’s co-chairs was Fairview Park’s Mike Gibbons. He said the event raised more funds than in years past. Money raised supports sports in the area, which has the effect of strengthening the economy. Gibbons attended with his wife and his father, Gene Gibbons, who is remembered as a longtime wrestling coach at Cleveland’s John Marshal High School and is a Hall of Fame member himself.