Haun, Thompson received Marie Sparks Award

Two youth sports advocates were honored by the city this month, with the annual Marie Sparks Memorial Volunteer Award.

Sparks herself was a no-nonsense, passionate advocate for seniors, children, animals and community. According to Healdsburg Senior Center Supervisor Anna Grant, “Marie was a low-income senior who did not let lack of her own resources stand in her way. She had the ability to inspire others to work with her, to get to the heart of a problem and to find a solution. She left a legacy of good works, many admiring friends and a stronger community.”

After Sparks’ death in 1995, the Healdsburg City Council created an annual volunteer recognition award. Volunteers are chosen each year, by an ad hoc committee of former honorees.

This year, the committee chose to honor Graham Haun and Kim Thompson, who were lauded at the June 4 council meeting.

Thompson was introduced and nominated by 2011 honoree Dick Buragske. “Kim has been an integral part of the Healdsburg High School Athletic Booster Club for over 15 years and this past year Kim has been serving his second tour as president of the club,” Bugarske said, noting that Thompson is a Healdsburg High School graduate and retired as a battalion chief after 37 years with CalFire and now serves as a reserve firefighter with Healdsburg.

“Kim has not only been an exceptional leader, you can also find him working the snack bars, food booths, golf tournaments, membership drives, car shows and the list goes on,” Bugarske said. “Kim always says yes when it comes to student-athletes at HHS.”

Thompson, always prepared, read a statement about the value of community and volunteerism. “When you are part of a community, you seek to give back, especially to those areas and people who have influenced you or helped you in the past. That is what sports did for me,” Thompson said, while thanking his wife and fellow volunteers.

Another perennial volunteer, Graham Haun, has also focused his energy on youth sports. Cindy Beth, the 2016 Marie Sparks honoree, introduced Haun and described his extraordinary 20-plus years running the CYO basketball program at St. John’s School.

“During the game season, he is at the gym all day,” Beth said of Haun. “He can be seen sweeping floors, emptying trash cans, making sure volunteer coaches, scorekeepers and clock runners are in place. And when they are not, he jumps in. He will even referee games when needed.”

According to Beth, Haun’s family is an integral part of his dedication to CYO. “Through the years Graham, Arlie, Jeffrey, Robert, James and Helen Ann have been a family unit keeping the program going,” said Beth. “They all have run the clock, kept score, swept the gym floors and when they were old enough, Robert and James have also coached teams.”

Haun spoke briefly at the council meeting, thanking his family for their support and noting that the late Neil Cronin was a mentor and friend. “About 10 years ago, I was having a hard stretch at CYO and Neil helped me through it.”

As the Marie Sparks Award ceremony concluded, Healdsburg Mayor Brigette Mansell took the opportunity to thank Haun for coaching her son Taylor.

“When my son was 13 and he was at Healdsburg Junior High, Graham was his coach and he was a tough coach,” Mansell said. “When Taylor was diagnosed with a brain tumor and he had two surgeries, the first person I called from the hospital was Graham and I thanked him for teaching my son to be strong. Graham worked him hard and made him tough.”

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