In a manner of speaking, the Elgin Sports Hall of Fame is truly coming home Sunday night.
The ESHOF's 32nd annual induction ceremony and banquet will be held at The Centre of Elgin for the first time after a long-standing run at Villa Olivia in Bartlett. And to kick things off, the Hall of Fame Foundation will rededicate its Wall of Fame at The Centre at 4:30 p.m. The banquet and induction ceremony will follow.
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The Wall of Fame had until recently been located in a more remote part of The Centre, not very visible to most. The wall, which recognizes all of the Hall of Fame's inductees and scholarship winners, will now be located directly across from the The Centre's main information desk and will include a legacy plaque to recognize the foundation's major donors.
"The location provides us a much more visible spot where more people can notice it," said Hall of Fame Foundation president Mark Sharf. "We're also now able to give those people recognition who have given us an opportunity to expand our scholarship opportunities."
The ESHOF is widely recognized as an organization that honors past athletes and other sports figures from Elgin. Well over 100 people have been inducted into the hall since its inception in 1980.
But what many people don't realize is the tremendous amount of money the hall's foundation has doled out in the last 32 years to scholarship winners. Growth hasn't been lost on the foundation, as it now awards 25 worthy student-athletes who live in Elgin $1,000 each. Those student-athletes come from Elgin, Larkin, South Elgin, Burlington Central, St. Edward, Elgin Academy and Westminster Christian, with Harvest Christian Academy likely being added to the list soon.
"We've been able to award close to three-quarters of a million dollars since 1980," said Sharf.
Bringing Sunday's event to The Centre was really just a matter of time.
"Villa Olivia was no longer equipped to hold the event," said Sharf, who noted approximately 250 people will be in attendance Sunday and that for the first time the banquet has a waiting list.
"This was an opportunity for us to bring it home to The Centre where they've made a lot of improvements and are now able to hold it. We're pleased to have In The Neighborhood catering the event and it should be a special night.
"The fabric of our town is how we've taken pride in our athletics for a long time. This is further recognition of the pride the city has in athletics in Elgin."
In addition to recognizing the scholarship winners from the 2010-11 school year, a plethora of Outstanding Achievement Awards will be handed out. These awards are for significant accomplishments by individuals coaching or competing in Elgin and range from former Larkin softball coach Larry Hight being acknowledged for his 300th career win, to all-staters, to two St. Edward teams (girls soccer and boys golf) for advancing to state to college athletes and coaches for their accomplishments. Additionally, adult swimmers and weightlifters from Elgin will be recognized for significant accomplishments. A total of 43 individuals and seven teams will receive OAAs this year.
Also, the Vic Masi Service Award will be presented to Bob Pleticha, the founder of the Elgin Sharks running club.
The culmination of Sunday's festivities will be the induction of the five new members to the Hall of Fame -- Stacey Nagel Cheek, Raul Rodriguez, Gary Kane, Phil Sokody and Jay Goedert.
It's fitting that Nagel Cheek is going into the Hall this year, the same year her high school coach is being recognized for his career milestone. She is just the second Larkin softball player, following 2008 inductee Katy Carter Potts, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. A fearless player and booming hitter Nagel Cheek, a 1999 Larkin grad, went on to a great Division I career at Mercer University in Georgia. She won't be able to attend the ceremony as she's eight months pregnant, but Hight's presence will make it worth it.
Rodriguez is being inducted for gymnastics. A 1983 Larkin grad, he went on to fine career in the sport at Illinois and was also a member of the Mexican National Team.
Kane is remembered as one of the best football and basketball players at Elgin High in the late 1950s. A 1958 Elgin grad, he was an all-stater in both sports. Kane attended Michigan, where he played football for two years and basketball for one year.
Sokody is a name synonymous with basketball in Elgin. Phil scored over 1,000 points in his Elgin High career and was the fifth leading scorer on the 1956-57 Maroons team that went 27-1. He went on to play at Lake Forest College.
And finally Goedert. Also an Elgin High grad, Jay's greatest contributions to basketball came in the coaching arena where he toiled for 19 years, including two at NIU and then 10 years under Joey Meyer at DePaul. Goedert passed away suddenly of a heart attack on July 4, 2004 but his legacy lives on in the form of the Jay Goedert DePaul/NIU MVP trophy, which was established in 2004 in honor of his contributions to college basketball at those two schools.
Sharf said that as of Thursday, Meyer was scheduled to attend Sunday's ceremony and present Goedert's award to his family.
What the Elgin Sports Hall of Fame Foundation brings to Elgin athletes and athletic contributors in Elgin is far more than recognition. It's one of those organizations that over the years has proved time and again to be doing good things, both in terms of scholarship money and recognition to those deserving people who have helped mold the fabric of athletics in Elgin Sharf spoke of.
The ESHOF deserves to have a banner night Sunday -- especially now that the festivities are being held right here in downtown Elgin.