Winning Work

Published 11:06 am Friday, November 14, 2008

PROCTORVILLE — It was a phone call that made last Sunday a better day than usual for Matt McComas.

That’s when the sixth grader at Fairland Middle School found out he was the winner of the essay contest for the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio.

Kara Speed, the teacher for talented and gifted students at Fairland, had encouraged her students to enter the contest where they were to write about what career path they wanted to take.

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It was Matt’s essay of wanting to be a rural health physician that took the top honors. Now Matt will get the chance to read his essay to Gov. Ted Strickland on Saturday at the 10th anniversary celebration for the foundation.

There Strickland and his wife, Frances, will receive the “I’m a Child of Appalachia” award.

“When I grow up I want to become a rural health physician because I like helping people,” Matt said. “To me it doesn’t matter how much you get paid, but how much you want to help somebody. I think that is one of the best jobs you could ever have.”

The foundation was begun 10 years ago to be a regional source for the 29 counties of Appalachian Ohio.

Saturday’s reception is to recognize the foundation’s successes and those who have supported it over the decade. It has invested more than $1.3 million in grants and scholarships to help communities expand in the fields of education, community and economic development, leadership, arts and culture, health and human services and conservation.

Matt won’t be the only Lawrence Countian to perform for Strickland and his guests at the Governor’s Mansion.

Joe Freeman and his bluegrass band will not only play at the reception, but will perform a song the foundation commissioned him to write for the occasion.

“It is an acoustic Appalachian-style songs with banjo, fiddle, mandolin,” Freeman said. “It talks about the governor’s life, how he was raised on Buck Run and his father worked in factory, his education and past experiences as a preacher, a professor at Shawnee State and working at Lucasville.”

Freeman was provided with six pages of background information about Strickland and the foundation.

“It was hard to take six pages and turn it into four verses and a chorus, all his education and all of his experience became four lines,” he said. “The challenge was taking several pages of information and saying it in a way people would understand and know what I was trying to present.”

Joining Freeman on stage will be Steve Moore on bass, Rick Brumfield on rhythm guitar, David Freeman of mandolin, Phil Osborne on lead guitar, and Shirley Seim of fiddle.

This isn’t the first time Freeman had done some songwriting. He has written and recorded six songs, but usually his forte is coming up with tunes for comedy roasts.

As to the big night, will there be any stage fright?

“I don’t usually get nervous when I perform,” he said. “But I told my wife I don’t don’t if I am going to get nervous about this or not. I’ll have to find out.”