Lee Epps (right) was presented with the Fan of the Year award by Josh Olerud.
Lee Epps (right) was presented with the Fan of the Year award by Josh Olerud.
It was an evening of surprises for three local individuals as the Spring Grove Athletic Boosters presented awards and recognition at the organization's annual Fan Appreciation Night on Feb. 21.

The announcements were made between the boys B-team and varsity basketball games, and after the game, fans enjoyed food and beverages provided by the Spring Grove Athletic Boosters.

Lee Epps was named Fan of the Year while Gary and Connie Strinmoen were recognized for their years of dedicated service to the organization.

"It was well over due for both recognitions," Tom Bjerke, vice president of the booster club commented.

Fan of the Year announced

Every year, the Athletic Boosters present the Fan of the Year award to an individual or individuals to say thank you for coming to all ball games and supporting the boys and girls athletic programs of the Spring Grove School.

Lee Epps was named the 2011-2012 Fan of the Year, but his involvement goes way beyond that, because he has done so much for athletics, fans would agree.

Bjerke made the presentation of the plaque, which reads: "Thank you for your outstanding devotion to Spring Grove Athletics 'Voice of the Lions'."

"I was overwhelmed, especially the surprise part." Epps recalled. "I was speechless! And I didn't remember what Josh Olerud said, so I asked him to email me what he read."

"The tribute was written and read by Josh, a player, and that meant a lot to me," Epps pointed out.

Olerud's speech read, "Dedication, hard work, exhilarating speeches, a consistent presence, and a passion for doing what he loves, are the words that I associate with Lee.

"He has delivered thrilling Homecoming speeches, covered all of our games, displayed articles in the newspaper of our romping victories, and has befriended our whole community.

"Through all of this drudgery, he always had a smile on his face, and always found time to have a good laugh.

"So, for all the years he has put into this program, let's take this night to honor Lee Epps for fan of the year."

"It was a real shock and something I wasn't expecting. When they announced my name, I thought they had the wrong piece of paper," Lee stated with a chuckle, adding, "It's the most surprised I've been since a birthday party when I was 12 years old."

Epps received a standing ovation when his name was announced.

As secretary for the booster organization, Epps found it interesting that the other officers could pull off the surprise without him knowing about it.

"Getting me there wasn't an issue. They knew I'd be there because I keep stats for the team."

And, he added, "It was gratifying not only immediately after the game, but also during the next few days to have several people downtown and at church offer congratulations."

Dedicated service recognized

The Strinmoens were also recognized with a plaque that presented by. It reads: "Gary and Connie Strinmoen - co-founding members of Spring Grove Athletic Boosters. Thank you for your 18 years of organizing, countless hours of volunteering and endless dedication to the Spring Grove Athletic Boosters."

"This is the first time we've ever done this recognition," Bjerke pointed out. Over the years, the couple and booster club have done so much for the school's athletic program and the community.

"It was a complete surprise to us," the couple echoed. "We had our grandkids with us at the game. After Lee's award, we thought the presentations were done, until the announcer started saying there was one more award to present to the co-founders of the booster club.

"When we heard co-founders, we realized it was us," they added.

"We are really honored. It's been fun working with the Athletic Boosters and a lot of good people helped us," Connie commented, with Gary adding, "We enjoy working with the young people of Spring Grove, and the kids appreciate what you do for them."

"Eighteen years ago Spencer Olson (now deceased) and I took it upon ourselves to organize an athletic booster group," Gary recalled.

"We got it going, it took off, and it has been going strong ever since. It wouldn't have worked if we didn't have good people on the board to help."

Last year, the couple retired from serving on the booster board. "We enjoyed doing it and have stayed with it. Now it's time to let somebody else take the reins, but we will continue to help out by overseeing the charter buses and help with grilling. Now we can enjoy time off to go to games with the grandkids."

"It's a great honor," Connie stated, adding, "Spring Grove is a fun place to be a volunteer."