MILLWOOD - Friendly yet feisty, Leigh Anne Tuohy challenged the capacity crowd attending last Thursday’s 2016 Community Foundation of Jackson County (JCCF) Celebration Dinner at the Jackson County Armed Forces Reserve Center to make a difference in the lives of people.

The inspiration for the best selling book and movie, “The Blind Side,” was keynote speaker for the dinner, detailing her family adoption of Michael Oher from the streets of Memphis, TN, and how that “random act of kindness” profoundly changed Oher’s life and the lives of each of her family for the better.

Oher went on to become an All-Ameican at the University of Mississippi and a first-round NFL draft choice for the Baltimore Ravens. He helped the Ravens win the Super Bowl, and has since played for the Tennessee Titans and now Carolina Panthers.

“It was one random act of kindness with Michael,” said Tuohy, “and look what happened.”

“If you take anything with you tonight from what I say, take this. Michael Oher was a person society deemed as valueless. He is a kid Nick Saban, one of the most influential football people of our era, said has got to be the most obvious success story walking the street of Memphis, TN, and he almost fell through the cracks. Can you imagine who is left behind—the next best teacher, the next best sales rep, the next best pilot, the next best counselor, you name the occupation, all they needed was a chance.

“We all take risks. It’s what we do. It’s what you choose to take a risk on. Get out of your comfort zone. Get out of your social circle. Get off the golf course. I took a risk, and it was the best thing I ever did.” 

Touhy commended the JCCF and Dave and Linda Dickirson. “You are blessed here. I would not be here if I did not believe that this community foundation is working to make a difference. These groups who benefit tonight are working to help people out there who are so needy, and you have no idea how much what happens tonight will do to help people. Community foundations alter people’s hopes and opportunities every day.”

“If you give, give more. It will change your life. Give unconditionally. God said to whom much is given, much is required. This Jackson County Community Foundation is changing lives every day. That’s why I’m here.”

“Thanksgiving through January is the best time of year. We give and give unconditionally. But why not do it all year around. You can be a difference maker. Do something today you didn’t do yesterday, and be a giver.”

The Community Foundation of Jackson County presented Fall Community Grants worth $21,730 at the dinner. 

Fall grants were awarded to the Jackson County Board of Education, $8,980 for online digital technology training for middle and high school students; Read Aloud Program of Jackson County, $2,500 for books in conjunction with the Snack Pak Program and for Snuggle and Read books and materials for elementary school students ; City of Ravenswood, $1,000 for materials and construction of a bicycle pump track within the city; Operation Fancy Free, $6,000 grant toward a complete concession trailer for fundraising pursuits; CASA of the Fifth Judicial Circuit, $250 toward advocacy for child victims of abuse and neglect; Ripley Convention and Visitors Bureau, $2,000 toward free entertainment for the 2017 Ripley Fourth of July celebration; and Ripley Elementary School, $1,000 mini grant through the Lisa Smolder Reading Support Fund toward purchasing books for struggling readers who do not have books at home.

Twenty charities raised $96,410.68 as part of the 2016 Charity Challenge Runs/Fun Walk  and were awarded JCCF matching funds totaling $21,650.28 for a total of $118,060.96. Those awards were also presented at the dinner.      

ARF (Animal Rights Fur-ever), $2,367.87 raised plus $1,000 match for a total of $3,367.87; CASA, $1,045 raised plus $552.50 JCCF match for a total of $1,567.50; Christopher Rhodes Memorial Fund, $2,000 raised plus $1,000 JCCF match for a total of $3,000; Guardians of the Children, $3,026 raised plus $1,000 JCCF match for a total of $4,026; Jackson County Commission on Aging Aquafit Program Ravenswood Senior Center, $13,474 raised plus $1,000 JCCF match for a total of $14,474; JCCF, Inc. Community Action Grant Program, $3,265 raised plus $1,000 JCCF match for a total of $4,265; Jackson County Developmental Center Multi-Sensory Environment Program, $2,100 raised plus $1,000 JCCF match for a total of $3,100; Habitat For Humanity, $2,000 raised plus $1,000 JCCF Endowment Match plus $835.55 raised plus $417.78 JCCF match for a total of $4,253.33; Jackson General Hospital Ready to Play-Head to Toe Checkup Day, $18,831.60 raised plus $1,000 JCCF match plus $1,000 JCCF Bonus Incentive-Most Funds Raised for a total of $20,831.60; Main Street Ripley for Alpine Theater upgrades and movies for elementary students, $2,000 raised plus $1,000 JCCF match for a total of $3,000; Operation Fancy Free, $10,117.88 raised plus $1,000 JCCF match for a total of $11,117.88; Parchment Valley Baptist Church Snak Pak Program, $18,546.84 raised loud $1,000 JCCF match for a total of $19,546.84; Pilot Club of Jackson County (Brain Minders & Safety Jamboree), $2,363.60 raised plus $1,000 JCCF match for a total of $3,363.60; Ravenswood High School Choral Boosters (replace aging choral uniforms), $2,050 raised plus $1,000 JCCF match plus $1,000 JCCF Incentive Bonus for most walkers/runners for a total of $4,050; Ravenswood Lions Club (eyeglasses and Adopt-A-Family), $2,025 raised plus $1,000 JCCF match for a total of $3,025; Ripley High School Alumni Association (scholarship program), $2,000 raised plus $1,000 JCCF match for a total of $3,000; Rotary Club of Ripley (community service program), $2,025 raised plus $1,000 JCCF match for a total of $3,025; Ripley Rumblers Wrestling Club (wrestling equipment for your in need), $2,321.34 raised plus $1,000 JCCF match for a total of $3,321.34; Ripley Youth Soccer League (soccer equipment), $2,596 raised plus $1,000 JCCF match for a total of $3,596; and Sandyville Community Pride (improvement to cover pavilion on nature/fitness trail), $1,420 raised plus $1,000 JCCF match for a total of $2,130. 

 In addition, Jennifer Hutton presented an overview of the Parchment Valley Baptist Church-originated Snack Pack Program which provides food to needy children, and is very needed, according to school officials.

 “We still have children going hungry even in the United States with plenty to spare,” said Hutton.

 The Snack Pack Program serves over 150 children weekly in Jackson County.