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Gibson back in town helping kids

Kirk Gibson and his mother, Barb Gibson, greet Mike Lewis, Clarkston music director. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
January 19, 2011 - Managing the Arizona Diamondbacks 2,000 miles away, Tigers legend Kirk Gibson never forgot his Clarkston roots.

"I grew up in the area, mom taught here I love this area," said Gibson, back in town, Jan. 14. "I used to come up here and practice with Dan Fife one of my heroes growing up."

Gibson visited Clarkston State Bank on Main Street downtown to meet with school and bank officials, setting up a scholarship program for Clarkston and Waterford students.

"It's so wonderful to give back to his roots," said Dawn Horner, executive vice president of retail banking, Clarkston State Bank. "He's never forgotten the people who helped him get where he is today."

Gibson auctioned off some of his LA Dodgers memorabilia from the 1988 World Series, including the bat he used to drive in a walk-off homerun in Game 1, batting helmet, World Series trophy, Most Valuable Player award, and Dodgers uniforms, including the jersey he wore in the key first game.

"The shirt was never washed," said Barb Gibson, Kirk's mother, at the Clarkston scholarship presentation.

The bat sold for $575,912, with $303,277 for the home jersey in the Internet auction last October-November. His helmet went for $153,388; MVP Award, $110,293; trophy, $45,578; and road uniform, $9,664, according to SCP Auctions.

"I have a lot more left," Kirk said.

"It is awful nice of him," said Fife, Clarkston High School athletic director. "Most importantly it is awful nice for him to give it in his mom's honor for what she stood for his mom. She was a great teacher for Clarkston schools for over 30 years. She is a great person, a great role model, taught with passion and always brought a smile and positive outlook everyday to school."

Proceeds go to the Kirk Gibson Foundation, which he founded 15 years ago.

Kirk Gibson, in middle with his mother, Barb Gibson, along with, from left, Superintendent Rod Rock, Clarkston State Bank Executive VP of Retail Banking Dawn Horner, and Athletic Director Dan Fife, and, from right, Principal Gary Kaul and Music Director Mike Lewis. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
"He's given a tremendous amount of money in honor of his mom (who taught speech and drama in Clarkston) and in memory of his dad (the late Bob Gibson, teacher and coach at Waterford schools)," said S. Gary Spicer, Sr., attorney representing Kirk Gibson.

"Kirk has as much potential in philanthropy as he did in baseball," Spicer said. "He has a wonderful future as manager, and expanding the scope of his philanthropy he's an example of a professional athlete giving back enormously to students."

Barb Gibson was a teacher when Fife was in school, and also when he first started coaching, Fife said.

"She really enjoyed what she was doing, especially for a teacher to teach that long and have the passion," he said. "Even our meeting on Friday, her smile lit up the world. I don't know anyone knowing Mrs. Gibson say anything bad about her and Kirk knows what a good mother she is. It is good he can give those kind of things in her honor."

The foundation provides $1,250 scholarships to Clarkston, Waterford, and MSU students.

"I'm very excited about the possibilities for our students through Kirk Gibson's generosity," said Dr. Rod Rock, Clarkston superintendent. "We are exceedingly grateful to Kirk and his mother for continuing to think of the students of Clarkston."

The selected students will have Kirk Gibson in their corner throughout their academic careers, as long as they do their part, he said.

"It's good to be able to do this I'm committed to it," Kirk said. "My goal is to give as much as I can. I got scholarships. Should the goal of any student athlete be to go professional? No. It should be to go to college, have time to mature and get an education."

Clarkston scholarships will go to drama students, in honor of his mother. In Waterford, they'll go to student athletes, in honor of his dad.

"What a great opportunity for the kids in both Clarkston and Waterford," said Mike Lewis, Clarkston High School music director. "It is wonderful that an individual that has had the success that he has is giving back to the community in which he grew up."

Students will be selected for scholarships in April or May, Rock said.

"This is a testament to Kirk's determination, overcoming all obstacles to become a dominant college and professional athlete," Rock said. "Further, it speaks to his desire to give back and to teach others to do the same. Finally, he is modeling his love and admiration for his parents, who played such important roles in the Clarkston and Waterford communities, and made a huge impact on Kirk."

As the foundation grows, Kirk plans to provide more scholarships and perhaps help out with pay-to-participate fees.

"I'm just excited he's really a very positive person with a positive attitude," Barb said. "He really is a giving person. I'm very proud."

Kirk stayed busy during his trip to Clarkston, visiting with family and friends, and a speaking engagement at Central Michigan University. He returned to his manager job, Jan. 17.

"He has a packed schedule I was lucky I got him just to say hi," Barb said. "I'm really proud of him. He's very dedicated. I'm glad Waterford and Clarkston will benefit."

Kirk hopes to return to Michigan someday, perhaps to work for the Tigers again. If he does, he plans to settle in Clarkston.

"Get a house on a lake, spend time with the grandkids," he said.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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