by S. Rotan Hale
Former baseball star Sam Ewing once said, “Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.”
Coach Millard E. Bolden, not only “turned up” but has inspired a countless number of kids throughout his lifetime of service to youth. After years of awards, Bolden was recently honored with the Whitney M. Young Award from the Blue Ridge Mountain Council, Boy Scouts of America, (BSA). It was presented at the organization’s annual dinner held Thursday, Sept. 30 at the Salem Civic Center. The award is presented to deserving persons who strive to serve those around them in collective efforts to improve communities.
Whitney Young, at age 40, became executive director of the National Urban League in 1961. Under his leadership the organization experienced great change growing from 60 to 98 chapters, boosting staff that reportedly expanded from 38 employees to 1,600 nationwide and growing the budget from $325,000 to over 6 million within the first four years of his presidency.
Young passed in 1971 leaving an unparalleled legacy during his 10 years (1961–71) as president of the organization.
“There have been some changes in scouting in the last few years but what hasn’t changed is the smell of the wood smoke with scouts around the campfire, activities offered that develop leadership skills, build self-confidence and give kids a moral compass that will last them a lifetime,” Chapter President Dr. Al Baker said early in the banquet.
Well-known as a seasoned community leader, Coach Bolden has led a stellar career as an educator, coach and even Sunday school teacher, among other roles that prove his standing as an unsung hero hailed by many whose lives he’s touched.
After giving credit to former award recipients, coaches George “Kila” Miller and Richard Chubb, Bolden spoke briefly of his experiences as a youth transitioning from Cub Scout to Boy Scout and ultimately on to college despite his uncle’s wishes to help plow his field. It was one of several enlightening stories he told of his humble beginnings.
Bolden’s winning streak started at what was once Monroe Junior High School in northwest. He won six track and field events in the 1967 City Championship. He graduated from William Fleming High School (1970) and carried an impressive athletic record in track and field throughout his years at Virginia State University (VSU) where he was later inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.
Upon his return to Roanoke, Bolden as William Fleming’s head track and field coach, led the school’s team through several District Championships from 1976 to 1982 which earned him “Coach of the Year.” He later became program director at the YMCA Family Center (1983 – 1998) whereby many students attended after-school programs and summer camp – all at no cost.
During his speech through which he thanked family and friends who have supported and inspired him over the years, he credited much of his strength to his late wife Armell, his high school sweetheart with whom he shared over 50 years. Together they created a special bond that continues even after her recent passing on July 13. It was a blow that only a man armed with strength of faith can handle with such uplifting grace as he has shown.
“I’ve lived a wonderful life,” Bolden said in closing remarks. “As a coach I’ve won championships and that’s okay, but it doesn’t compare to what we really do for the youth. As long as we keep striving to work with our young people, giving them what they need, this world will be a better place.”
Ken Lyons, chief development officer, Blue Ridge Mountains Council, BSA, became a scout at age 12 and has been one for 38 years.
“We are excited to recognize Millard Bolden for all he’s done for youth in the Roanoke Valley. He was the perfect choice,” said Ken Lyons. “His résumé is impressive. While his accomplishments have been mostly in sports, our organization has a long history of working with inner-city kids just as well.”
Another long time scout, Andre Peery is council training chair and a supporter of the event. Peery was instrumental in urging Bolden to attend the affair considering the timing of his wife’s passing.
“I really love scouting,” Peery said. “For me it will forever be one of the most important programs that instills core values in youth. Through its mission it prepares young people to make ethical and moral choices turning countless numbers of young boys into men of caliber.”
Men like Coach Millard Bolden, Ken Lyons, Andre Peery and countless others, live a mission to mold lives. Selflessly, they continue their principled crusade to give the precious gift of hope to young people.
For more information on scouting contact the Blue Ridge Mountains Council Boy Scouts of America and be a part of the change the world so desperately needs. Step up and be an inspiration to our youth for they are the future.