2014's Most Encouraging Kentuckian Award

2014's Finalists

Listed alphabetically. Their stories are below!

  1. Shawn Burns, Community Advocate
  2. Liz Davenport of A Running Start
  3. Tony Davis of Kentucky Knows
  4. Wafaa El-ghoroury of Sphinx Academy
  5. Jim Host, Lifelong Entrepreneur and Kentucky Statesman
  6. Lea Morgan, Occupational Therapist
  7. Jeff Walton of Lexington's Todd's Road Stumblers

Ernie Peel presenting Liz Davenport her 2014 Most Encouraging Kentuckian Award!

Ernie Peel presenting Liz Davenport her 2014 Most Encouraging Kentuckian Award!

Tony Davis and Matt Higgins presenting Buffalo Trace's Freddie Johnson a custom-made Kentucky Bourbon Barrel cutting board, honoring Freddie's late father.

Tony Davis and Matt Higgins presenting Buffalo Trace's Freddie Johnson a custom-made Kentucky Bourbon Barrel cutting board, honoring Freddie's late father.

Tony Davis

Tony, a Marine veteran, has taken his craft - reusing bourbon barrels and parts for cutting boards, shelves, serving trays, etc... - and used it as a tool to help others. He donates countless items for charity events throughout the year, and not for personal gain, he does it because "it's the right thing to do."

He has started programs with Lexington and the surrounding area to work with the youth and teach them the craft of woodworking and re-purposing. He keeps these events completely free to anyone who would want to attend. He has a passion for the state of Kentucky and helping others and any conversation with Tony makes that evidently clear. And even when Tony is interviewed in the media (which has happened a lot lately) he does not once mention his charity work - he doesn't do it to be recognized.

You can find Tony's work at KentuckyKnows.com!


Jim Host

Jim Host is probably best known for founding his visionary company, Host Communications, a pioneering collegiate sports marketing and production services company that he eventually sold to IMG.

Later, after Jim's instrumental role in the development of Lexington's Rupp Arena, home of the University of Kentucky Wildcats' Men's Basketball program, Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher created the Louisville Arena Authority in 2005 with Jim as the Chairman. The group was tasked with overseeing the construction of a new arena for the city of Louisville, which resulted in the construction of the KFC Yum! Center - for which, Jim did not accept a salary.

He is currently the chairman of Volar Video, a venture specializing in the delivery of customized video across television, computer and mobile platforms.

Jeff Walton

Jeff is one of the most recognizable faces of today's Lexington's Todds Road Stumblers - an informal group of runners who meet each Saturday morning to run in the beautiful Bluegrass countryside of central Kentucky and enjoy each others company.

Todds Road Stumblers is a non-profit group with no dues. They owes their existence to the generosity of Mr. Alex Campbell, the original "Stumbler", who founded the club back in 1975.

Shawn Burns

Shawn always has a "yes" attitude. While maintaining a calm exterior, his heart and mind are excited by any and every new possibility... whether it is food, community, or beer related!

Shawn is likely to be seen several times a day at Lexington's Cup of Common Wealth coffee house, or at West Sixth Brewery... he is a community-minded guy with a smile on his face!

And even though he's extremely busy with all of his own projects, he'll always make time to grab lunch or coffee and plot out ways to save the world!

Wafaa El-ghoroury

Wafaa is an inspired educator who has taken a huge personal risk by founding her own school, Lexignton's Sphinx Academy, to bring innovative and high quality education to young people.

Wafaa is an enormously talented and eminently qualified woman whose humility and generosity of spirit belies and incredible pedigree. We are so lucky to have someone of her caliber serving our youth here in Kentucky. 

Liz Davenport

Liz's dedication to A Running Start - with the new lives and friendships it has helped form for those who need encouraging - is incredibly inspiring.

She unselfishly betters the lives of others with such a simple, yet powerful, gesture.

A Running Start is "a running community committed to encouraging, growing and helping new runners from challenged backgrounds get a fresh start in life!" Their website is ARunningStartLex.com

Lea Morgan

Lea has served and encouraged 100+ families throughout the state of Kentucky by caring for children with special needs. As an Occupational Therapist she has taken on the mission of improving the lives of Special Needs children one child / one family at a time. This is not just a job it is a mission / calling for her. She provides daily therapy, respite (once a month childcare for numerous kids so parents can have a date night), she also provides staffing for a Special Needs room weekly in her church so parents can attend services. On top of all that she delivers meals on a regular basis to families of the children and cleans / arranges cleaning of their homes at times. She is the real deal and encourages kids and families by expressing love in a very very practical and humble way.

Previous Years' Award Winners

Inaugurated in 2011 and inspired by the daily life of Lexington's Ernie Peel, our Award's goal each year is to "encourage the spirit of encouragement" by honoring those who bring out the best in the rest of us! To acccomplish seemingly impossible tasks, to do more than we ever thought we were capable of doing, it often requires someone else's gentle voice spurring us on.

From left to right: Ernie Peel (2011), The Hart & Roberts Family (2012), Chris Ortiz & Salvador Sanchez of Cup of Common Wealth (2013)