Last week, our club celebrated Michael Atkins for his 45 years of service as a Thornbury-Clarksburg Rotarian! And what an amazing 45 years! Michael was a key organizer, and often leader, of many memorable local events including the Rat Race, the Chariot Race and the Chili Cookoff, fundraising for the building of our current BVCC and arena, the building of the Bayview Pavilion. He was also instrumental in the success of the Haiti Project and the Hand Up Program. And Michael delivered two successful terms as club President, several terms as an Assistant District Governor and a term as the District Governor. These are only some of his accomplishments. What can we say other than THANK YOU Michael! YOU are AWESOME!!! Read more to find out just how awesome Michael is... 
Introduction of Michael Atkins at his 45 year celebration by Gerry McGregor, another long-time Thornbury-Clarksburg Rotarian
Most people are familiar with Rotary’s motto – Service Above Self.  If you think about it, it’s a GREAT motto, a PERFECT motto  – it says who we are and what we do as Rotarians.
Let me tell you a story of Service Above Self – in fact, what 45 years of Service Above Self looks like……
45 years ago this month – March 1978 – a young man from the valley, Victoria Corners to be exact, 30 years old, was inducted into the Rotary Club of Thornbury-Clarksburg.
His name was Michael Atkins.
Not being a member of the club yet, I’m not sure exactly what his first few years in Rotary were like, but I know that he was actively involved in the last couple of years of the Beaver River Rat Race, which was organized jointly by the Beaver Valley Athletic Association and T-C Rotary.  His strong back and excellent organization skills I know proved useful to the club.
When the Rat Race had finally run its course, the club was looking for a new event to take its place.  I remember clearly listening to CBC Radio one weekend morning in early 1982 and hearing a young Michael Atkins describing the upcoming Chariot Race that was being organized by him and the club.  Years later, Mike’s post mortem on the Chariot Race concluded that, although you could float down the Beaver River drunk and you could subsequently cook chili drunk, it wasn’t so much the case for hauling a chariot around a gravel pit!!  Needless to say, the Chariot Race was a one-hit-wonder.
Also in 1982, the club had become involved in the Haiti Project, spearheaded by Rotarian Jim Heslip in Haiti and Dr. Ian Irvine here at home.  It eventually became a HUGE (2 million dollar in total) project, involving collecting used hospital and other equipment from all over the district and sending it to Haiti, via Canadian Forces hercules aircraft out of Trenton.  Mike was a major pork producer at the time, and as such had lots of big equipment.  His farm became the staging point for all of the materials we gathered from throughout the Rotary District for Haiti.  It was usually Mike’s rig that transported the shipments all the way to Trenton.  Although designated as one of the T-C Rotarians to visit Haiti to check on the progress being made on the various aspects of the project, business pressures at home forced him to give up his seat to another Rotarian.
Less than 6 years after joining the club, Mike was elected Club President in the 1984-85 Rotary year, and we had an excellent year under his leadership.
In 1985, when we started the Chili Cookoff, I am CERTAIN that he rolled his eyes and thought it was a CRAZY idea.  Despite this, that year and for many years thereafter, he pitched in and did everything he could to help with the huge amount of work it took to organize, set up and run the cookoff.
For decades, T-C Rotary has hosted all of the inbound Rotary Youth Exchange students in the district for 3 days in the late winter, and it has become a highlight of the inbounds exchange year.  Although I don’t have the exact dates, Mike and his trusty sidekick, Hartley Jones, ran these annual Ski Days for a number of years in the 80's and 90’s.  I don’t know for sure, but I suspect he was involved in bringing Blue Mountain onboard as an active supporter of the event and of our inbound student each year.  (For many years, Blue Mountain provided a full season pass & skis – gratis – to our exchange student.  Sadly, that generosity is no longer there.)
By 1987, it was evident in our little community that we needed a substantial community hall to replace the many smaller facilities scattered around the country.  T-C Rotary became a major partner – with Beaver Valley Kinsmen and the Beaver Valley Athletic Association – in making this happen.  Mike was a major player in that work.  Working with the town, these 3 groups planned, fund-raised and promoted what is now our excellent Beaver Valley Community Centre.  It was planned and sited so that an arena could be added to it later on……
Also in 1987, our Rotary club submitted a successful bid to run the gates at the International Plowing Match held in Meaford that year.  It was a massive undertaking for the club, and Mike was the guy taking the lead throughout.  Despite the terrible soggy weather all week, we pulled it off with outstanding results, thanks in large part to Mike’s excellent organization.
As mentioned, 5 years after completing the Community Centre, it was time to build a new arena when the ice plant in the old arena finally died.  Once again, Kinsmen, Rotary and BVAA stepped up to fundraise, design and build our new arena.  There’s no time to tell the story here, but ask Mike how much the arena cost, compared to what the official engineer’s feasibility study predicted!!  He was again a major player in that saga, as a number of highly capable individuals in the community simply took charge and made it happen…… an affordable price.
In the late 90’s, T-C Rotary was looking for a project to add to the facilities in the town.  It was decided, with the cooperation of the Town, that we would build a Pavilion at Bayview Park.  Using his contacts from his arena-building days, Mike took the lead again and oversaw a very successful build of what has become a valued facility in our community.
In 2000, T-C Rotary needed someone to step up as President, and thankfully, Rotarian Mike again answered the call, serving as president 15 years after his first term!
By this time, Mike’s Rotary experience had progressed to the point where it was only natural that he take on a role at the District 6330 level.  He served admirably as Assistant Governor for Area 8 for several years, doing a great job of helping the clubs in the area to communicate better with each other and we worked together, sharing experiences and ideas.
Finally, on July 1st, 2010, T-C Rotary proudly introduced District Governor Mike Atkins.  He had a stellar year as DG and as a club, we helped him host a VERY successful District Conference at Blue Mountain in the Spring of 2011.  It was a very good year.
A year later, in 2012 – the Hand Up program, focussed primarily on water projects in Cameroon, was getting underway and Mike jumped into that with both feet, helping to promote the program and getting clubs to get onboard with fundraising.  He eventually spent several years as Chair of the Hand Up Program, again making a very significant impact.
Not all of you will remember the various “incarnations” we have had since starting our rental program for tents and chairs.  All along, if we needed something designed and built, Mike was our guy!  Without Mike’s (and Hartley’s) skills and efforts, we would NEVER have had a modified school bus to hold and deliver our tents, or a massive big trailer to haul the tables and chairs around on, or the small stainless steel trailer that we still use.  (Next time you are helping use the “Rotary Router” to drive tent pegs, make sure you thank Mike for designing and building that sucker!!  When we started, we were using 3’ steel pegs and sledge hammers!!!)
On the personal side, I know Mike and Marg hosted at least one Rotary Youth Exchange student and have always been keen supporters of the program.
And we can’t forget the passion for Motorcycles that our friend Mike has.  He has been a keen and active member of The International Fellowship of Motorcycling Rotarians for years and continues to get great pleasure from that involvement, continuing to promote Rotary fellowship through this passion.
I know I have missed some things here, but Fellow Rotarians and Friends, THIS is what 45 years of Service Above Self looks like.  I’d like to thank you, Mike, for all you have done for our Club, our Community, our Rotary District, Rotary International……..and the WORLD.  Your Service Above Self has made a difference.
I present to you……Past President, Past District Governor, Paul Harris Fellow +5 ………Rotarian Mike Atkins!