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Mayor picks all city residents for Daytonian of the Year

Dayton city commissioners and Mayor Nan Whaley honored the winners of the Mayor’s awards at the weekly city commission meeting. The big winner of the night was the entire city, which won Daytonian of the Year. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
Dayton city commissioners and Mayor Nan Whaley honored the winners of the Mayor’s awards at the weekly city commission meeting. The big winner of the night was the entire city, which won Daytonian of the Year. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Dayton, take a bow. You’ve earned it.

You — yes, you Dayton — are the Daytonian of the Year.

It’s definitely a large winner’s circle. About 141,000 people.

But Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley says each and every one of you deserves the honor.

You responded to a hate group with love and messages of unity.

You helped clean up after the tornadoes.

You gave money and support after the mass shooting.

You honored Dayton detective Jorge Del Rio and his family after he was fatally shot in the line of duty.

You were strong in tough times. You showed resilience, grit. And now you’re being recognized for it.

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Normally, a committee is supposed to select one person for this annual award, someone who made the greatest contribution to the city in the past year.

But the mayor says it was just not possible to narrow down the list of deserving candidates after the year from hell.

“We received a number of amazing nominations in this category for 2019, but we felt we couldn’t pick out a single person or organization that rose to the challenges presented by last year,” Whaley said.

No one person could have accomplished what all of you did.

It took so many of you rolling up your selves or opening your hearts or wallets to make life a little better for people in the city after tragedy struck.

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You all spent countless hours volunteering. So many of you donated your hard-earned money.

The financial outpouring of support was incredible.

The Greater Dayton Disaster Relief Fund was set up a day after the Memorial Day tornadoes and to date has received more than 4,000 individual gifts, Michael Parks, president of the Dayton Foundation.

The disaster relief fund has raised about $1.8 million, and the fund has distributed more than $1 million to relief, Parks said.

The Oregon District Tragedy Fund was established the same day as the Aug. 4 mass shooting, and the fund has received more than 5,200 individual gifts, he said.

A few months ago, the fund distributed $3.8 million to 47 applicants who were victims or who lost loved one in the mass shooting. The fund continues to receive donations and will make a final distribution next fall, Parks said.

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The more than 9,200 donations doesn’t capture the true number of donors, because many individual gifts were actually proceeds from fundraisers that countless people donated to, Parks said.

“There’s definitely thousands and thousands of other gifts,” he said. “All the people who helped, contributed and gave at the Gem City Shine event — well, that got collected and put into the fund as one gift.”

Gem City Shine, put on by Dave Chappelle, drew a crowd of more than 30,000 people. Many of you attended and bought shirts to raise money, or dropped dollars in donation buckets and gave in other ways.

There have been more than 100 fundraising events, and dozens are still going on or coming up, Parks said.

“It speaks so highly of how Daytonians care for their neighbors, and it speaks so highly of the care and compassion we have as a community for others,” he said.

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2019 was the Dayton’s most challenging year since 1913, the year of the Great Flood, Whaley said.

But just as Dayton pulled together after the flood to rebuild and aid those who suffered great losses, you all banded together again to help people in need heal, recover and begin piecing their lives back together.

“I am so amazed and quite emotional about how wonderful this community is,” Whaley said.

The Dayton Mayor’s awards recognize people and groups that “make the city great.”

Other mayor’s award winners in 2019 included:

Education champion winner: Lisa Babb, Miami Valley strategic director of 4C for Children;

Giving back to neighborhoods winners: Gwen Buchanan and Twin Towers Neighborhood Association;

Community Service winners: Families of Addicts and Melissa Rodriguez.

Winners, who were nominated by community members, receive a $1,000 donation to a nonprofit of their choice.

The 2018 Daytonian of the year was Amy Radachi, with Rebuilding Together Dayton, which works to keep elderly and low-income residents in their homes and in a safe and healthy environment. She was the inaugural winner.