It was an evening to recognize athletes for their achievements.
But the Southern Oregon Sports Commission awards banquet was also a chance to shine light on a couple who has provided numerous opportunities for the athletes, their peers and other generations across the Rogue Valley.
Sherm and Wanda Olsrud, who started Sherm’s Thunderbird Markets and Food 4 Less, were celebrated as the SOSC’s sports advocate honorees at the fifth annual event Thursday at the Santo Community Center.
The program also featured the announcement of the commission’s male and female athletes of the year for 2018 and the presentation of spirit of competition and officiating awards to Wendy Werthaiser and Jerry Eklund, respectively.
The Mail Tribune’s top 10 stories of last year were presented, and former Medford tennis star Jonathan Stark served as the keynote speaker.
Crater wrestler Logan Meek was chosen male athlete of the year, and St. Mary’s soccer and track standouts Meghan Michels and Maddie Wheelock were co-winners of the female athlete award.
The Olsruds, who in December participated in the dedication of the Olsrud Family Community Playground at Bear Creek Park, were hailed in a nearly eight-minute video for their philanthropy. They’ve made contributions to, among other things, the Medford School District, Kids Unlimited, Harry & David Field and the Jackson County Fairgrounds.
The Olsruds couldn’t attend, but their son, Steve, represented them. “They have always thought the future of the community is the kids,” said Steve. “The kids of today are going to be the leaders of tomorrow. They have just really been proud of the community, and the community has been good for our family. They just want to say thank you.” During the video, a number of people spoke glowingly of the Olsruds’ generosity. Tom Cole, of Kids Unlimited, told of the vision the Olsruds had 15 years ago in building that facility. A basketball court is named for them, and they would go to games, sit on the concourse and watch kids play. “They changed the game of basketball and the landscape of basketball in our valley for kids who may not otherwise have the opportunity to play,” said Cole. “What truly separates them from so many other people,” he added, “is that they really lead from the heart, and that’s an amazing quality.” Dennis Murphy, former athletic director and boys basketball coach at South Medford, remembered soliciting funds to install artificial turf at Spiegelberg Stadium. The Olsruds came through with a large donation, but they nixed the idea of having their company logo on the scoreboard. “‘No,’” Murphy recalled them saying. “‘We don’t need that. This isn’t about us. It’s about kids.’”
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Olsruds, others honored at banquet
BY TIM TROWER OF THE MAIL TRIBUNE | February 7, 2019
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