Spirit Award Dinner celebrates Kershaws for improving lives
Spirit Award Dinner Kershaws

Celebration filled the air at the Helen Ross McNabb Center’s 2016 Spirit Award Dinner honoring George and Cheryl Kershaw. More than 600 friends of the Kershaws and the Helen Ross McNabb Center gathered at the Knoxville Convention Center on March 1 to celebrate the service and achievement of the honorees. The Center established the Spirit Award Dinner in 2004 to celebrate individuals who have demonstrated the Center’s simple yet powerful mission of improving lives in East Tennessee, and the Kershaws have clearly demonstrated this commitment. George, a veteran and businessman, and Cheryl, a celebrated educator and community leader, have both improved lives by dedicating their talents and time to the community. George and Cheryl became involved with the Helen Ross McNabb Center in 1995 when George, a lover of golf, helped develop the Center’s annual golf tournament fundraiser. He served as the golf committee chair from 1995-1999 and continued serving on the committee until 2012, and he has helped to raise approximately $500,000 for the Helen Ross McNabb Foundation. From 1999-2005 and 2008-2015, George served on the Helen Ross McNabb Foundation Board of Directors and worked on various campaigns, including the 2000 annual fund campaign, which raised funds for the Martha A. Withers Friendship House, a peer support center for adults living with a mental health diagnosis. Cheryl’s impactful career in education has given her a heart for prevention and early intervention programs. From her work and experience with children, she knows the extent to which emotional issues or trauma can weigh on a child. She is a dedicated supporter of making resources available to children in need.

“We have a passion for the Helen Ross McNabb Center because we see the hope that is given to thousands of Tennesseans in the 25 counties that the Center serves,” George said. “The Helen Ross McNabb Center provides hope for the poorest and sickest segment of our population and causes wonderful life changes to occur.”

At the event, attendees browsed silent auction items ranging from George and Cheryl’s favorite things to vacations, art and jewelry. Following the reception, guests enjoyed a seasonal spring dinner and a program reflecting the Kershaws’ fun-loving and awe-inspiring personalities. With Bob Pryor serving as emcee, guest speakers described the Kershaws’ unwavering commitment to expanding resources for East Tennesseans in need of mental health care and assistance. Guest speakers included Andy Black, Helen Ross McNabb Center executive advisor for philanthropy; Mitch Steenrod, Pilot Flying J chief financial officer and Spirit Award Dinner chair; and Julie Griffin and Lindsay Nickels, daughters of George and Cheryl Kershaw. Concluding the evening, the Helen Ross McNabb Center’s president and CEO, Jerry Vagnier, presented George and Cheryl with the 2016 Spirit Award. 

The event raised more than $150,500 to provide addiction, mental health and social services to children, adults and families in our community. Mitch and Debby Steenrod led the Spirit Award Dinner committee, creating a memorable evening for the Kershaws and everyone in attendance. The Kershaws have demonstrated their dedication to our community through incredible support of the Center’s mission of improving lives throughout the years, and the Spirit Award Dinner was a wonderful occasion to honor their service.

Consolidated Nuclear Security supports military services

George joined the military and served in the Air Force from 1967-1973. Following his service in the Air Force, he joined the Air Force Reserve and, from 1975-1994, served as the Air Force Academy Liaison Officer for East Tennessee. He was a commander for 15 years. He was very active in the Air Force Reserve, having served with the 14th Air Force in Sharjah UAE during “Desert Shield” and served on the Joint WWII Commemoration Committee in Washington, D.C., where he coordinated activities in connection with the opening of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of D-Day in England and France. While serving in the Air Force Reserve, George briefly worked for Marteq Corporation before co-founding D&K Management, Inc., a property management company, in 1974. 

In honor of George and other veterans and military personnel across East Tennessee, Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC (CNS) presented a $150,000 check at the Spirit Award Dinner for the Center’s new outpatient mental health services for veterans and military personnel. 

Spirit Award Dinner CNS

Of the 2.4 million active duty and reserves deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, approximately 30 percent will experience a mental health disorder. Unfortunately, less than half of returning veterans needing mental health treatment receive care. The Helen Ross McNabb Center’s mission of “improving the lives of the people it serves” led the organization to create specialized services for military personnel and their loved ones. These services are confidential and free for individuals facing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, anxiety, co-occurring disorders, thoughts of suicide and other invisible wounds incurred from service. 

The Center recently purchased a building located on Middlebrook Pike to accommodate for the newly created military services. Renovations to the building are expected to be complete in summer 2016. Military services will offer specialized individual and family therapy. These services will be provided by clinical therapists trained in military culture. Our hope is to serve those who have courageously served our country to guarantee they have access to the resources and support they need to continue healthy and purposeful living.