ABOUT THE AWARDS
The Jefferson Awards that recognize volunteerism have been presented on the local and national levels since 1972. Each year a national winner is selected in four categories: elected or public officials, private citizens, people benefiting the disadvantaged and individuals 35 or younger. The final winner of Chattanooga's Jefferson Awards will attend the national awards program in Washington, D.C., this year.
Bobby Dunn is usually the first one at the fields of the Harrison Recreation Association, and he'll be the one to turn out the lights after dozens of local children and teens have finished playing baseball.
As the volunteer league president, he's been turning out the lights for 25 years. In that time, he's overseen and coached players as young as 3, often through their high school years.
His dedication to the kids is one of the reasons he is one of this month's winners of the Jefferson Award.
"The kids see him as their hero," says Carol Pearson, who nominated Dunn for the award. "They trail around him; they see he really loves them."
For many players, Dunn is more than a league administrator. The league's rules stipulate that everyone on the roster gets to play, so Dunn makes sure everyone gets in the game.
In addition, league sponsors pay the registration fee for players who cannot.
"It's really meaningful to see kids who couldn't play anywhere else playing here," Dunn said.
Dunn's philanthropy extends beyond the diamond, as well. Years ago, when one player was diagnosed with cancer, he headed a raffle and a tournament to raise money for the child's family. According to Pearson, Dunn has helped other children buy new clothes and afford dental work.
His league residency has coincided with massive development of the Recreation Association's ballgrounds. Where there was once a gravel parking lot and one field now stand five fields, accommodating the youngest T-ballers to high schoolers.
Not one to hoard credit, Dunn said, "baseball is a team game, and that's how we try to run things."
Though the league is privately run, county employees occasionally come out to work on issues such as plumbing, Dunn said. To show his thanks, he throws a luncheon for county workers every year and serves his own cooking. Last year, more than 70 workers showed up.
Besides his work with the Harrison Recreation Association, Dunn serves as vice president of Dizzy Dean Baseball, an organization that promotes baseball in the region, and the Scenic City Youth Football League.