When Bill Botham walked into the Augusta Boxing Club to shoot a public service announcement, little did he know how much that one moment would change his life.
Club Director Tom Moraetes already knew Botham. He recognized the young man as a then-Augusta College announcer and a Jones Intercable employee. Moraetes recruited him to announce some upcoming boxing fights. That was 1986.
Botham's ties to the club have remained strong since. So strong, he couldn't even suggest ending them.
"I tried to tell Tom I'm going to retire after 20 years," he said. "That didn't go over too well."
If Botham does end his association with the Augusta Boxing Club in two years, he will leave after making his most indelible contribution. Last year, he helped transform the club .
Botham was named the 2004 Volunteer Man of the Year on Saturday at the 60th annual National Association of Police Athletic/Activities Leagues national convention.
"I don't think Bill got due credit for this award," Moraetes said. "It's not about the Augusta Boxing Club. It's about Bill Botham. We're just pleased that we're a recipient of his labor of love."
Botham, Comcast's community relations director, showed his devotion to the boxing club one autumn day. He heads a once-a-year community service project, and in October, he and his Comcast associates gave the Augusta Boxing Club an extreme makeover, renovating the building on Walton Way.
About 200 people spent several hours performing tasks including:
l Painting inside and outside the building.
l Building a computer lab replete with computers, printers and free Internet access.
l Donating exercise equipment.
l Building a kitchen.
l Installing basketball goals.
l Installing wiring.
The list goes on. But what Botham is most proud of is the computer lab. Anywhere from 120 to 200 children use the room on a daily basis to complete homework and work on other educational duties.
"You have no idea what a great thing that computer lab is," Moraetes said. "It's just mind-blowing how kids are using it."
Moraetes was impressed enough to send a volunteer award nomination to the National PAL boxing organization. With 330 PAL chapters nationwide, Moraetes didn't believe Botham had a chance to win anything but sent him a note telling him how much he appreciated his service to the club.
Two weeks ago, Botham traveled out of town on a business trip. Moraetes learned of Botham's award and spent little time keeping it a surprise.
"He very excitedly tracked me down," Botham said.
Botham flew to St. Louis for the award ceremony. It was there, in front of 200 conference attendees, he realized the prestige of the honor.
"It meant more once I saw the people (Saturday night) and saw what they were doing than what it meant in advance," he said. "They really touch the kids and make a difference in their life."
Just like Botham.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.