For the ever-so-few Bradley County residents who might be unfamiliar with the University of Tennessee football program or who perhaps aren’t in good standing with Vol Nation, Derek Dooley is the Knoxville campus’ new gridiron leader who is entering his second year with The Big Orange.
No further introduction is needed.
The biggest news is Coach Dooley is coming to Cleveland to deliver the keynote address Friday night at the second annual Bradley Sunrise Rotary Sunset Gala at the Museum Center at Five Points. As of this writing, a few seats remained but those were expected to go soon.
It is with great excitement that we welcome the second Dooley — technically the third — to Cleveland in the past two years. The young college mentor’s parents — the legendary Vince and Barbara Dooley — appeared at the same community event in 2010.
This year the upstart youngest Dooley son will be on hand to host a 6 p.m. reception for Gala Gold Sponsor representatives. He will then deliver the keynote at 7 p.m.
Coach Dooley’s appearance is only part of the Sunrise Rotary story.
Another significant morsel in the philanthropic visit is that the UT coach is coming to Cleveland in support of Bradley County families who were devastated by the tragedies of April 27 during a terrifying 12-hour span that witnessed five killer tornadoes, nine deaths, the destruction of 285 homes and the damaging of 300 more.
Traditionally, the annual gala would support Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland, the Bradley County Chapter of the American Cancer Society and Bradley Sunrise’s own Angel Flight program; however, in a heartfelt decision heard around the community the organization’s members voted to divert the majority of this year’s proceeds to disaster relief.
It was a fitting gesture on the day of the decision.
It is a beloved action today ... the eve of Coach Dooley’s visit and address in which he surely will offer words of encouragement to Cleveland and Bradley County families who continue to emerge from the heartbreaking destruction of seven weeks ago.
The popular Sunrise Sunset Gala is the latest in an expanding series of community activities, concerts and fundraisers aimed at direct support for our own — neighbors, friends and loved ones whose lives are being rebuilt through personal courage, perseverance and thousands of helping hands and open hearts who refuse to turn their backs on the misfortunes of others.
The fact that Coach Dooley is willing to lend his support — with encouraging words and a physical presence — to our determined Bradley County families is indeed humbling.
It is a genuine kindness far removed from the football field, one which bespeaks the inner warmth and caring heart of a staunch humanitarian.
But then, such actions are fitting of one who follows in the footsteps of legends.
Vince Dooley not only coached the University of Georgia Bulldogs for 25 years, but he did it successfully and even garnered a national championship. Barbara, his wife, is a cancer survivor, a special lady who has assumed a leadership role in public awareness and in combating the trauma of breast cancer.
Both are role models.
Each is an inspiration.
Their youngest son carries the same inner fire.
We welcome Derek Dooley to Cleveland.
We are excited over his message.
We thank those who have made his visit possible.
We thank him for giving our community his time.