Better Newspaper Contest

2014 Award Winners

Hoosier State Press Association - The Indiana Publisher - Better Newspaper Contest

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Page 35 Division 3 Best Sports Commentary/Category 13 First place Ray Cooney The Commercial Review (Portland) Comments: Interesting, tugs at emotion, good information and calls for action! Excellent! Second place Val Tsoutsouris The Rochester Sentinel Comments: Lots of information and examples – encourages thinking even before the final statement! Good job. Third place Ray Cooney The Commercial Review (Portland) Comments: Short and sweet, but an important point made. I'm certain the readers loved this! Best Editorial Cartoonist/Category 14 See Page 12 for all divisions. Ray Cooney The Commercial Review (Portland) It was one of those gut- punch moments. We've all had them. They are those times in life when you feel as if the wind has been knocked out of you. Sometimes they bring you to your knees. These moments come at the most difficult times: the loss of a job, the breakup of a relationship or, at worst, the death of a loved one. For me, one of those moments was learning Jay County High School athletics secretary Joni Penrod had breast cancer. Unfortunately, cancer has probably given a gut punch to most who are reading this column. It's hit my family. Last year, my grandma died of complications from cancer. My mom went through a battle of her own a few years earlier and is now a cancer survivor. It's also hit the Jay County athletics community. In the months after Patriot boys basketball coach Craig Teagle led his team to the 2006 state championship game, his wife, Shelley, was diagnosed with cancer. She is also a survivor. Joni will be too. I have no doubt Joni will win her fight against cancer. She's got a fighting spirit, a stubbornness that will serve her well. And she's met the challenge with strength. I stopped in to her office last week to wish her a speedy recovery saying, "Good luck with your surgery. I hope everything goes well." Her response was a confident, "It will." Joni had her surgery Thursday in Indianapolis. She was back home a day later. And on Monday she said, "I feel great." She had walked a mile, and taken no pain medication. She said if not for the need for a few uncomfortable medical devices, she would have been ready to return to work. "There has never been any doubt," said Joni of her expectation of a full recovery. "God's been taking care of me all along, and all the people that have been praying. That's the only thing that has gotten me through. "This is a bump in the road. It happens for a reason. … It's going to be OK. It's going to be fine." Joni, like her mom, Jeannie Habegger, before her, is the backbone of Jay County athletics. If I ever have a question about anything at the high school, I call Joni. She either knows the answer, or she'll find it. A member of the second graduating class from JCHS, she has been a Patriot from day one. She truly loves her school, her teams and her job. And I know it's driving her crazy every minute she has to be away. (Joni's doctor told her she would need to be off of work for four-to-five weeks. Her response was a defiant, "no." Expect to see her back soon.) But so much more important to me than her skill and dedication to her job is her friendship. I know I can walk into Joni's office any time, any day and talk to her about anything. I've told her happy stories about my niece and sad stories about family trials and tribulations. And we've shared far too many laughs to count them all. It's truly an honor to know her. And now it's time to show it. The Patriot boys soccer team dedicated its game to Joni on the day of her surgery. The pictures from the event brought tears to her eyes. "It makes me feel very honored and humble," said Joni, again unable to keep from crying. "I wouldn't want to live any place else. "And I definitely wouldn't want to work any place else. "I've always loved Jay County High School." Joni wasn't able to attend the soccer game played in her honor. But she plans to be at Harold E. Schutz Memorial Stadium in three days, which will give us all the chance to show, in person, how much we love her. Jay County fans are normally urged to fill the stands with Patriotic red, white and blue. But for this week's game against Heritage the stands should be a sea of a different color, not only for Joni but for all of those in our lives who have battled against this terrible disease. On Friday night, think of them, think of Joni and think pink. Friday a time to show our support

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