Jun 12, 2018

Florida Citrus Sports honors volunteer service at annual Member Celebration

On June 7, Florida Citrus Sports welcomed more than 300 guests to Full Sail Live for the organization’s 2018 Member Celebration presented by Florida Hospital.

The annual event, which honors current and past member service, included remarks from outgoing chairman Andy Odenbach and incoming president Tom Sittema, as well as the presentation of member service awards.

Check out a gallery from Member Celebration presented by Florida Hospital above.

At this year’s celebration, host Paul Kennedy, a past Howard Palmer Award-winner, began by recognizing Florida Citrus Sports’ retiring board members — Mike Brown, Linda Byrd, Milton Carroll, Todd Smith and 2014-15 president Ken Potrock — each of whom completed a six-year term this year.

Kennedy then welcomed Odenbach to the stage to receive the Chairman’s Trophy, which is presented to the organization’s outgoing chairman.

“As a membership, as a group volunteer leaders, I don’t think we’ve ever been better,” said Odenbach, Florida Citrus Sports’ president for the 2016-17 season. “We are at an incredible phase as an organization, an incredible time as an organization.

“There has truly never been a better time to be a part of Florida Citrus Sports.”

Following Odenbach, Sittema took the stage to make his first official address as president.

The former CEO of CNL Financial Group and the current managing director of Riverbridge Capital, Sittema took over as the organization’s 42nd president on April 1, replacing new chairman Pete Schaefer at that post. In his speech, Sittema emphasized the importance of finalizing long-term extensions with both the Florida Blue Florida Classic and Florida Citrus Sports’ bowl partners.

He also spoke about the importance of continued investment into upgrades at Camping World Stadium and the organization’s focus on using the stadium as a catalyst for improvement in the West Lakes communities surrounding it.

“Investing in our community has been at the heart of Florida Citrus Sports for more than 70 years,” said Sittema, a co-founder of LIFT Orlando. “A region is only as good as its most vulnerable communities. We’ve got a lot of work to do there, but thankfully we’re doing a lot of work there … and I confidently believe our best years are ahead.”

After congratulating Sharon Line Clary, Florida Hospital’s vice president of marketing, for her recent induction into the Hospital Marketing National Hall of Fame, Kennedy presented seven Florida Citrus Sports members with Volunteer of the Year awards for their efforts throughout the 2017-18 season.

“These members went above and beyond with their service to this organization last year,” Kennedy said before calling Rae Connelly, Paul Leake, Tim Loftin Chris McLeod, Greg Milakovic, Karl Schmidt and Rob Yacabucci to the stage. “You are permitted to cheer wildly as we welcome them to the stage.”

The Volunteer of the Year awards were then followed by a few words from Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan, who presented the Howard Palmer award to longtime member Ted Ruta. A former football official and co-founder of the Gridiron Classic all-star game, Ruta now serves as a host for referees during bowl season and on Thursday spoke fondly of his time within the organization.

“You ask any major college official which bowl they’d rather go to, and it’s one of the Orlando bowls,” Ruta said as he thanked fellow referees host Greg Lefils for his partnership. “That’s for sure.”

Ruta also thanked his family at home, as well as his second family at Florida Citrus Sports, in an emotional address to the crowd.

“They’re unbelievable, our professional staff and our volunteer staff,” Ruta added. “They are all one of a kind, and so are we.”


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