Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
June 18, 2014 6:05 p.m.
City Hall was packed for the second regular monthly meeting of the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) on June 17, 2014. The reason? A proclamation to honor retiring community volunteers Bob and Beckie Christian, who have coached the Team Fernandina Stingrays, the local youth swim team, for the past 19 years. Children and their parents, attired in Stingrays T-shirts, began arriving a half hour before the meeting began. By the time the Christians arrived, the City Hall Commission Chamber was full to overflowing, with additional Christian supporters in the hall, It was estimated that easily a third of the 104 children enrolled in the program currently attended, along with their parents.
The Christians appeared stunned as they arrived to applause from an audience packed with so many friendly faces. When Mayor Ed Boner called them to the podium to receive a proclamation of appreciation, the city began playing a slide show that highlighted past and current swim team members and coaches that have been touched by the Christians during their 19 years of volunteer service, with Bob serving as Head Coach and Beckie serving as “Head Team Mom.”
In reading from the proclamation, Mayor Boner said, “They have coached thousands of children as young as three years old through high school, all the while promoting excellence, individual performance and personal improvement with nurturing works, kind encouragement and positive reinforcement.” Boner added that during their tenure the Christians have taken the local swim program to new heights and are widely regarded a the best swimming mentors in the Northeast Florida Regional River City Swim League.
Beckie Christian addressed the audience and the FBCC, thanking them and expressing her joy in having worked with so many children over the years. She seemed a bit overwhelmed by the outpouring of community affection and said she hoped to get through her remarks without breaking down. Bob Christian said that his goal in working with the children has always been to set an example and “to get kids to think” before they take actions that might lead them down the wrong path. He said, “It’s all about the children. Thank you for the opportunity to work with the children and help set them on a positive direction.”
Assistant coachValerie Priest followed Bob Christian, telling the audience that it has never been about Bob. “With him,” she said, “everybody else is first.” She also thanked Beckie Christian for her behind the scenes work to organize all the events.
As the Christians left the podium, the audience rose in a standing ovation.
Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.