33rd annual Spirit of Beckley awards dinner held, honoring two lifelong residents of the community

BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – Two devoted citizens Bill and Lynn O’Brien were honored Monday evening, December 12 at the 33rd annual Spirit of Beckley dinner.

Held at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center, the event is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the local YMCA, playing a vital role in helping with the development of the facility’s various youth programs. This year, the goal was to raise $100,000.

In addition to the honorees, Co-chairs Mayor Rob Rappold, Bill File, and Byrd White, and YMCA CEO Jay Rist were all major contributors to the ceremony.

“The Y first established this back in 1987 in honor of Lucy Hayes, who was a phenomenal volunteer, someone that did a lot for the community and the fact that the Spirit of Beckley was established here to help with fundraising but to also honor the people who gave back to our area has been a phenomenal thing,” Rist says.

Every year, the Spirit of Beckley Community Service Award recognizes one person for the work they do to help the area. This year, the award recognized two.

For nearly 50 years, the O’Briens have been each other’s support, in addition to supporting the community in many ways.

Bill O’Brien served as a cherished sports broadcaster at WJLS for 43 years, being the “Voice of the Beckley Flying Eagles.” In addition, he and his wife went on to eventually take ownership of WJLS.

In 2014, following his retirement, he stepped up to become the city’s mayor upon the previous mayor’s resignation. He and his wife have also been lifelong supporters of the YMCA and other local organizations.

“That’s what makes this special, the YMCA is such a worthy cause, they affect some many people, thousands of people in this community, and they’ve done it for so many years,” Bill O’Brien says.

“You know, I’ve been here all of my life and there’s just no other place like it. When you go somewhere else you’re anxious to get back to Beckley, because there’s just no other place like it,” adds Lynn O’Brien.

During his time being the MC for various kinds of events, O’Brien was also the MC at the Spirit of Beckley dinner for many years.

While the end goal was to raise $100,000, the YMCA ended up raising a little over $102,000 during the fundraiser, all of which is funds that will go on to support everything the Y has to offer.

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