COACH Kids has named Aylisa Meredith as Local Heroes Adult Mentor of the Year.

COACH Kids of Clinton County recently announced its annual awards in order to publicly honor the work of its mentors. COACH Kids’ annual Spring Banquet is a celebration that draws many members of the community into Arborwood in Frankfort each year but, like so many other traditions this year, it was canceled due to the pandemic.

“It is a highlight to be able to see our mentors and donors and to have them all in one place to be able to celebrate them and let them know what has been going on,” said Susan Grasham, executive director of COACH Kids.

In place of the banquet, which was originally scheduled for early this month, COACH Kids went to social media to announce its awards and honor its many donors and volunteers.

“We had posts scheduled all day on May 15,” Grasham said. “Our earliest was 9 a.m. and the latest was 5 p.m., and we had a huge reach. We had a reach of over 10,000 (views). But, we would have rather had it in person.”

Among those posts on social media was the announcement that Brendon Bright was named Community Hope Mentor of the Year.

“Brendon is incredibly compassionate,” Grasham said. “He has such an amazing outlook on life, and he is making such a great difference in both lives. It has been neat to see them connect.”

Aylisa Meredith was named Local Heroes Adult Mentor of the Year

“Aylisa is very compassionate, and she has been such a great connection for her mentee,” Grasham said. “Her husband, John, is also a mentor, and he is fantastic as well.”

Seventh-grade science teacher Jacob Hickey was named Frankfort Middle School Booster of the Year.

“It is a new program that we started in the last year as we try to find mentors for our middle schoolers who need it so much,” Grasham said. “Jacob is a teacher at FMS. What is neat about that is that the teachers already give their regular time and extra time, and then they give their extra-extra time to connect with these students.”

Selected as the COACH Kids Club High School Mentors of the Year were Kayla Faulkner (Clinton Central), Lexi Collins (Clinton Prairie), Riley Grasham (Frankfort), Jayla Rosen (Rossville) and Victoria Seest (Rossville). Any county junior or senior who “excels at mentoring and is a sincere role model displaying leadership” was eligible for the award. Recipients of the award received a $300 scholarship sponsored by Duke Energy and the Rossville Business Association (for Rossville recipients).

Any county sophomore, junior or senior who has “reached out as a mentor because of a personal experience and a commitment to be a role model” was eligible for a Pay It Forward award, which comes with an Amazon gift card, sponsored by Duke Energy and COACH Kids donors.

Recipients of the Pay It Forward awards were Alexis Gunn (Clinton Central), Dylan McKinney (Clinton Prairie), Ashley Timmons (Frankfort) and Matthew Haan (Rossville).

“We have so many high schoolers that we have a hard time picking,” Grasham said. “All of the high schoolers have been such a gift to their high schools, their kids and to COACH Kids.”

Chief of Police Troy Bacon was scheduled as the honored speaker for the Spring Banquet, and he shared some of his thoughts on COACH Kids.

“Mentorship is an amazing gift of love and support that you give to a child in need,” Bacon wrote. “I have always admired the positive example set by COACH Kids mentors who selflessly dedicate countless hours to helping children through circumstances that most people could not even fathom. The mentoring you provide reflects your commitment to making a positive life-changing investment in a child’s life. In doing this, you are shaping the future of Frankfort, Indiana and the world.

“Serving as a police officer in the City of Frankfort over the past 20 years, I have witnessed the positive impact that COACH Kids mentors have made on the lives of the youth in our community. I have seen kids that once made bad choices now making better-informed ones, and kids with low self-esteem begin to believe in themselves.”

Grasham says that, despite the pandemic, COACH Kids is still working hard to provide these mentees with connections to mentors.

“We are just being resourceful. We are not letting the virus take away these personal relationships,” Grasham said. “We are finding creative ways to make connections possible.

“We are still trying to figure out what the school-based program looks like for next year, so we are working with the school administrators,” she added. “Our community-based program, we are trying to find more virtual events that we can do together online. Those relationships haven’t changed. Those mentors are still connecting with their kids.”