Talk about a “family affair!” Bonds of affection and dedication could be felt throughout our visit to Greenville, and it went well beyond our Personal Best award presentation to 80 year old Fran Allison and her 56 year old daughter Jackie, made during a break in competition at the 20th annual North Carolina Senior Games Basketball Championships held at East Carolina University’s Student Recreation Center on Oct. 25.
The NC Senior Games organization is a family unto itself; many volunteers and staff have been helping stage excellent competitions for many years. In fact, Executive Director Brad Allen, who emceed our event, has held his position for 10 years but seemed to be the ‘newbie’ on the scene. The group has developed 53 local senior games spread throughout the Tar Heel State. Allen tells us the organizers maintain close ties to share information and lend support when needed. And of course, the senior athletes we met were clearly enjoying kinship with each other…except when the clock was running on the basketball floor!
“We are here not only to share our Personal Best message, but to also recognize the amazing job that North Carolina Senior Games has done to make games available around the state,” NSGA CEO Marc T. Riker told the gathering of 250. “Anyone can find games in less than an hour’s drive from where they live. This is a model for many other states to study and emulate.”
But our mother-daughter team clearly stole the show as the emotions of Fran and Jackie Allison overflowed and touched the assembly. Riker noted this is the first time two athletes have shared a Personal Best award, due to the intergenerational aspect of their story and how Jackie has turned the
tables and become cheerleader and coach for her mom as a senior athlete. Riker challenged Fran, saying “you said Jackie convinced you to keep going to 80, and now you are 80 you will keep playing until 85. I want to hear you say you’ll keep going til you’re 90!” There was an ovation as Fran grinned, pumped her fist and said “I will!”
Daughter Jackie, who also plays senior basketball and serves on the NC Senior Games board of directors, acknowledged their friends and fellow athletes, saying “we all feel part of one big family here. We are all examples to our children and others.”
ECU Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of Campus Recreation and Wellness Nancy Mize also shared praise for the Allisons and NC Senior Games at the event. “I’ve known Fran and Jackie for many years and it is great to see their example and inspiration is getting this recognition.” Mize, who noted she also enjoys playing on a senior games softball team, added that “People don’t need to be great athletes to participate, have fun and enjoy the benefits of keeping active.”
This report would not be complete without thanking Alice Keene for taking time from her busy tournament organizing to help us reach out to media and to make NSGA feel at home. We were very pleased to be featured on the front page of the Greenville Daily Reflector the next morning, and for coverage provided by the CBS and NBC TV news operations. Pitt County’s cable TV channel also aired a feature on its monthly community events program that was repeated several times and seen by thousands in the region.
Thanks to our North Carolina “family” for making our final Personal Best Tour event of 2013 so successful and memorable!