Nearly 200 friends, former players, family members and current members of the Hiland boys and girls basketball teams gathered together to celebrate the third annual Perry Reese Jr., Memorial Tip-off Saturday at the Carlisle Village Inn in Walnut Creek.
WKLM radio personality Mark Lonsinger emceed the event, which featured a video presentation, piano music provided by Hiland assistant coach Rob Moser, dinner, an introduction of this year's Hiland basketball teams, presentation of this year's recipients of the Perry Reese Jr., Memorial Scholarship, an update of the scholarship fund and a reflective oration by Pastor Ricky Browne, a high school friend of the former Hiland teacher and coach.
Brown graduated from Timken High School in 1970 with Reese. He is currently the pastor of Gethsemane Baptist Church in Canton. They were friends all through school and after, as Perry served as "Best Man" in the pastor's wedding.
"When Perry left us in Canton 25 years ago, he was a green bean," Browne said. "When I came to see him, he was a stalk of corn. I don't know what you all fed him, but I'm thankful that you did."
The pastor pointed out that Reese was a blessing to all who knew him.
"If you want to get somewhere in this life, it is good to follow the pattern that Perry Reese laid out," Browne said. "If you young people want to be successful, first of all you have to make up in your mind that you are somebody regardless of what somebody says to you. You can accomplish anything you put your mind to.
"Perry Reese was focused. He decided that some day he was gonig to be a basketball coach and be successful. He accomplished what he set out to do.
"Being able to go to the state five years, I think that shows that he was determined.
"If you want to reach the moon, you've got to make that your goal. Then, if you only reach a star, at least you've gotten somewhere," Browne continued. "But you should always set your goals high, then do all you can within yourself to accomplish them. With the help of God, and those around you, I'm sure there is nothing that you can't accomplish.
"Looking at Perry Reese's life, and doing what he did... this bootleg Catholic priest can accomplish all of that, all of us ought to be able to do the same thing.
"He's been a good neighbor, a friend and a father-figure to some. Perry has been it all. We need to make an impact on somebody else and do all we can to encourage each other and work together.
"As a team, I wish you guys a lot of luck and I'm hoping that this year I'll be able to read about you, that you have kept the tradition of this school going by bringing another state championship to this area."
Keith Troyer, the former Hiland star who played under, coached with and then took over for Coach Reese introduced this year's Hawks and offered only one guarantee: that his team will play hard and get after it defensively.
Troyer spoke about continuing what Perry Reese started at Hiland.
"Perry taught us more about life and he used basketball as a tool," Troyer said. "It is our job to keep that legacy going."
Hiland girls coach Dave Schlabach introduced the Lady Hawks and shared some stories about coaching with Reese and some of the pranks they used to pull.
But more importantly, he spoke of continuing to make a difference in the lives of kids in our community, something he learned from Perry.
"We need to take advantage of what he stood for and don't ever take it for granted," Schlabach said.
Karl Schlabach, a former Hiland player gave an update on the Perry Reese Jr., Memorial Scholarship Fund, which raised more than $2,700 at the Tip-off program, and currently has $157,281 to go towards providing assistance for student athletes.
"We talk about the impact that Perry had on our lives," Karl Schlabach said. "You just look around this room and his influence has been instilled on a lot of people here who make an impact on kids' lives.
"On the court we've got head coaches at Hiland, head coaches at other high schools, coaching staffs, varsity assistants all the way through junior high and biddy ball," he continued. "People helping out, giving back to kids on and off the court. That's very important."
Past winners of the scholarship who are still receiving the $1,000 annual award are Christina Snyder, Brett McKey, Corey Miller and Cliff Sprang. Chris Miller and Maggie Wengerd are the current year's recipients.
"We wish to thank the community for your tremendous support in continuing the growth of this fund," Karl Schlabach added.
Lonsinger concluded the program with some touching personal remarks.
"We used to tease Perry about being a deity, and that he was immortal," Lonsinger said. "He loved that so much. But isn't it funny how things work out? He really was, as he lives on every single day.
"If you ever think of him and you don't smile, then you didn't know him very well, because long after everything else is forgotten, it's that laughter that lives. And it always will."
Lonsinger thanked everyone for being there and for supporting the fund and "... for being what you are, which is one of the greatest places in the world that one of the greatest people in the world had a chance to work and live in.