Area children who've enjoy fishing or have played in the Portage County Amateur Tennis Tournament may owe a debt of gratitude to this year's winner of the Streetsboro Area Chamber of Commerce's Citizen of the Year Award -- Harry Devault.
Longtime fans of Kent State University sports may, as well. Devault, 78, was a writer and associate sports editor at the Record-Courier's sports desk for 44 years.
The five-year Streetsboro resident was nominated for the award by resident Tom Szemon, who worked with him at Walmart.
"What I see, is that man's dedication," Szemon said. "Anything that has to do with the kids, he is right there for."
Szemon said Devault has been organizing and spearheading "Take a Kid Fishing Day" each June at Lake Hodgson for the past 11 years.
Devault said the event is cosponsored by Walmart and Rockne's and supported by many others.
"Take a Kid Fishing Day' is not just me," he said. "It's a lot of people working together to do something."
About 20 to 30 volunteers helped out with the 2012 "Take a Kid Fishing Day," he said. The event is held in June each year.
Every year, Walmart donates 300 fishing poles and Rockne's has donated hot dogs, chips and soft drinks to the event, Devault said.
Even the weather has cooperated; in 11 years, Devault said there hasn't been rain once.
"We've gotten a lot of help," he said.
The idea for "Take a Kid Fishing Day" came to Devault while he was working at Walmart and literature about fishing equipment was being distributed to children at the store, he said.
"The kids walked over and put it in the waste basket," he said, realizing then that only by experiencing fishing would children develop an interest in it.
Since then, the event has become a time for families to come together to learn about fishing and enjoy nature together, Szemon said.
Six or seven years ago, Devault said a boy came up to him at the and asked to shake his hand.
"I said, 'Why do you want to shake my hand?' He said, 'I had a wonderful day today.' That makes it all worthwhile," Devault said.
He said he was surprised when he was first told he won the Citizen of the Year Award.
"When I first heard about this award, I thought it was one of my friends pulling my leg," he said.
Stephen Laird, the chamber's outgoing president, said Devault has been a positive force in Streetsboro and Portage County for many years.
"You could open a Webster's Dictionary and under the words 'inspiration,' 'heart,' 'knowledge' and even 'Portage County' you would see a picture of Harry Devault and his heartfelt smile."
Other honors bestowed by the chamber are:
Image Award -- Ripkin Vision & Laser Center, which took over the old Robinson Med Center building on S.R. 14 and transformed it into a "state-of-the art" vision care facility, according to chamber Executive Director Heidi Inzerillo.
Chamber Member of the Year Award -- retired Streetsboro Police Chief Richard A. Taiclet, who has continued to volunteer in the community.
Outstanding Recognition Award -- Action Auto Body, which chamber board member Deborah Bish said has donated to "Shop with A Cop," the Streetsboro Heritage Foundation and more.
Business of the Year Award -- Automated Packaging Systems.
In addition to having three facilities in town, Automated Packaging Systems helped with a number of community events as well as donating $50,000 to the new stadium project at the high school and planting 50 trees along Philipp Parkway in celebration the company's 50th anniversary.
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