Ask his friends what they remember about Casey Gillenwater and they'll say that he was humble, mature beyond his years, fun-loving, bubbly, friendly and caring, and fiercely competitive. They will say he made positive impact on many, many lives.
Gillenwater, a 2011 graduate of the Paonia High School, outstanding athlete, homecoming king, outdoorsman, son, brother and friend, lost his life in a vehicle accident last September at the age of 25. On May 14, the first "Live Like Casey" memorial award was presented to Slater Podgorny, an outstanding athlete, son, brother and friend.
Close friend and former teammate Blaine Escher presented the award to Podgorny, a three-sport athlete and Daniels Fund Scholar. Gillenwater's family asked the school staff to select the recipient based on his shining characteristics as described by his friends after his death. Among them, the male or female recipient should reflect selflessness and leadership, be a good role model, share their passion and ability so inspire, connect with others they come in contact with, and demonstrate high achievement. "They should lead by example, and be mischievous, but in a good way," said Escher.
Escher referred to Gillenwater as "a prime role model here at Paonia High School," with "an intrinsic motivation to succeed, passion to inspire, and ability to connect with everyone... Casey's selflessness and competitive mindset separated him from any other player in the division, on and off the field. His refusal to lose and overall leadership is what made Casey Gillenwater into a phenomenal player, friend and person."
"This award should inspire students to 'Live Like Casey,'" said Escher.
A memorial plaque will be displayed "within these PHS walls where Casey made such a positive impact." The recipients name and year of graduation will be added annually to the plaque.
The award was made possible by memorial donations from friends, family and the Paonia community. Donations will continue to be accepted through the high school.