Bucks’ best and brightest shine at Kiwanis awards banquet

Attending Wednesday night's 23rd annual Kiwanis Scholar-Athlete Awards Banquet were, from left, Kiwanis Club president Jill Saul, Central Bucks High School South's Victoria Zencak, Philadelphia Flyers great Brian Propp (guest speaker) and Central Bucks High School South's Brian Schmidt (Photo by Debbie Glass).
      It’s extremely rare when so much athletic and academic talent from the scholastic community is gathered under one roof.
      Wednesday night at the Spring Mill Manor in Ivyland was one such special occasion.
      Bucks County’s best and the brightest high school seniors gathered together for the 23rd annual Kiwanis Scholar-Athlete Awards Banquet.
      Some 34 of the area’s top performers from the classroom and the playing fields convened to be honored by the Levittown-Bristol Kiwanis Club and the Bucks County Herald, co-sponsors of the Dick Dougherty Honorarium.
      Brian Propp, the former Philadelphia Flyer great, was on hand to serve as guest speaker.
      The main ballroom hosted an amalgamation of college-bound students empowered with intellectual and academic skills.
      Central Bucks High School South’s Brian Schmidt said he appreciated not only the opportunity to have his scholastic career recognized by community leaders but to share the evening with Bucks County’s most accomplished scholar-athletes.
      In addition, all award recipients had a moment at the microphone to thank their families and acknowledge those who helped make their high school careers successful ones.
      “It was wonderful,” said Schmidt, a soccer and wrestling standout who is a member of the National Honor Society. “Everyone from the Kiwanis Club gave great speeches. Brian Propp’s speech on leadership. . .he spoke about leadership and I feel like I’ve had a similar experience.
      “It’s the adults around me giving back to the communities. They make it possible. I’m just honored to be here, it’s a wonderful event; a great feeling to be recognized and I know there are so many other people who are deserving of this. So to be one of the standouts, it’s truly an honor.”
      The banquet was made possible by proceeds from the 23rd annual Kiwanis-Herald Sesame Place Classic held this past Sunday.
      Since 1999, the event has raised more than $400,000 for the Dick Dougherty Scholarship Fund.
      “I am incredibly impressed, not only by the athletic ability of all these students but by their scholastic accomplishments,” said Kiwanis Club’s Donna Milner, treasurer/secretary of the Sesame Place Classic. “Their hopes, their dreams – if they all come true, we are in good hands with these kids.”
      Joe Wingert, owner and publisher of the Herald who served as banquet emcee, acknowledged the standouts in the room.
      “These kids are great,” he said. “They’re great examples of hard work and diligence in what they love to do. It’s an honor to be with them and among them. They have such bright futures ahead of them. They have this energy that just rubs off on you.”
      Jill Gilardi, another multiple role player in the Classic event, teaches school, so she has a deep understanding of what it means for someone to become the best of the best. That includes extracurricular school activities and volunteerism in the community.
      “As usual, it was another great event,” she said. “The scholar-athletes get better every year. I’m amazed at the amount of time they dedicate to others. It’s just great to see the future that’s coming.”
      The 34 scholar-athlete recipients:
      >Archbishop Wood: Natalie Albin, James DiGuiseppe.
      >Bensalem: Averi McCoy, John Wineburg.
      >Bristol: Angelisse Cantiello, Jacob Walker.
      >Central Bucks East: Arielle Vinnikov, Suraj Samudrala.
      >Central Bucks South: Victoria Zencak, Brian Schmidt.
      >Central Bucks West: Abigail Lynn, Eli Boehm.
      >Conwell-Egan Catholic: Katherine Brennan, Brian Jeter.
      >Council Rock North: Jayne Bogle, Jack Czarnecki.
      >Council Rock South: Karissa Smedley, Ryan Petrie.
      >George School: Laurel Hutchins, Kendell Gordon.
      >Harry S Truman: Stacy Couillard, Caleb Wright.
      >Holy Ghost Prep: Jack Evans.
      >Morrisville: Eleanor Quince, Mark Macwana.
      >Neshaminy: Mercedes Paino, Nicholas Buchys.
      >New Hope-Solebury: Mia Chuma, Nathaniel Wiseman.
      >Pennsbury: Olivia Graebner, Ryan Zuckerman.
      >Villa Joseph Marie: Meredith Glunz.
      >William Tennent: Erin Somerville, Daniel Scheller.
      Sponsors for the Sesame Place Classic included Sesame Place, Kiwanis International, the Bucks County Herald, Lin-Mark Sports, Oxford Valley Mall, PARX Casino, Lower Bucks Hospital, McHales, Fred Beans Auto, TransPro Trucking, BP Environmental Services, Pine Valley Investments, Main Management, Bristol Township Education Association, McCarthy Real Estate, Caps, Guranteed Rate, Secure Planning Group, James J. Dougherty Funeral Home, Faulkner Cadillac, Newtown Dental, Chiro, Night Owl Graphics, Pool Design LLC, Ricci Allstate Insurance, Apollo Pizza, Access Credit Union and PSEA Retired.
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Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.