The Greater Keene Youth Baseball and Softball Association Volunteer of the Year Award is named after first-year recipient Dean Joyal, the former organization president who received the honor in 2014.
Five years later, amid opening-day buzz and festivities at Wheelock Park, his wife, Kathleen, garnered the same honor.
Many know Kathleen Joyal for her tireless efforts as co-chair of Project Graduation at Keene High School, but the mother of three has been an important supporter to area youth, too.
She took over management of the snack bar at the league’s baseball complex at Wheelock in 2006. It didn’t take long for improvement and expansion to follow; Kathleen expanded menu offerings and recruited local groups to assist with work shifts. The Northern Lights cheering program was one.
She added more “we’re open” hours and eventually the city of Keene approached her about taking over the Durling Field snack bar, which has a brand new building this year. That snack bar has always served the area softball league teams and at the time, the youth teams in the Allyson Barden softball league, which played their games at a field directly behind the snack bar.
This season that stand will be operated by Rich Rogers, who has run snack shacks in Walpole and Swanzey.
In 2012, Kathleen suffered major burns while working in the baseball complex snack bar as a result of a hot oil spill, but she stayed on and ran it even as she fought back from her injuries.
Five years ago, she stepped up again for the league to become its treasurer.
It was then, too, that the association took over the Allyson Barden league and Babe Ruth baseball. Kathleen instituted a better accounting system, new point-of-sales reporting in the snack bar, and worked with a CPA to ensure the league stayed current with regard to all tax laws.
She has headed up all food planning and operations for three New England regional events hosted at Wheelock Park, and added satellite snack bars for the league’s Babe Ruth teams. And, she continued to work with area nonprofits to raise funds for the association.
“Dean and Kathleen were tireless workers for the league who volunteered countless hours,” Jim Fennell, an association board member said. “Kathleen has been involved in many projects in the community, and is the embodiment of volunteer spirit.”
Last year she stepped back in her role as snack bar coordinator, but remained as treasurer until just recently.
Besides the Joyals, Steven Russell, Fennell, Mike Soucia and Jeff Castor have also been honored with the Volunteer of the Year Award.