Archive for Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Boatwright named chamber’s 2005 Citizen of the Year

Local resident helps shine spotlight on Tonganoxie with ‘Survivor’ win

February 1, 2006

My, how times haven't changed.

About a decade ago, nearly 200 residents turned out to wish Danielle Boatwright luck as she represented Kansas in the Miss USA pageant.

During the event, then-city council member Janet Angell presented Boatwright with an award from the city and declared Jan. 20, 1996, as "Danielle Boatwright Day."

Fast-forward 10 years, and Boatwright, who now goes by "Danni," again received accolades from her hometown. In December, Boatwright was selected as the Sole Survivor of the CBS reality show "Survivor: Guatemala" and was awarded $1 million.

Last Wednesday, during the annual Tonganoxie Chamber of Commerce meeting, Boatwright was the organization's guest speaker. But before the 1993 Tonganoxie High School graduate spoke, Mayor Dave Taylor presented Boatwright with a key to the city.

Again, to Boatwright's surprise, she was named the chamber of commerce's 2005 Citizen of the Year.

Boatwright spoke to nearly 150 people gathered at the THS auditorium about her experiences on the reality show. But her message was more about remembering where you came from and to "dream big."

"Don't let anybody hold you back from those dreams," Boatwright said.

As for her hometown of Tonganoxie, Boatwright's words oozed with pride. She said she's had job opportunities in New York and Los Angeles, but prefers living in northeast Kansas.

"I don't want that," she said. "I want to stay in Tongie."

Sometimes it's hard to convince people that she actually is from Tonganoxie when traveling to large cities.

"What? There's no such place with that name," Boatwright said, recalling conversations with people from New York and Los Angeles.

After her speech, Boatwright fielded questions and then fans swarmed the auditorium stage for pictures and autographs.

From pageants to reality shows, Boatwright said her accomplishments wouldn't be possible without Tonganoxie people shaping her life.

"When I was in school, I had a real special relationship with teachers," said Boatwright, whose mother, Vicki Cackler, also taught at Tonganoxie.

She also thanked Phil Jeannin and Mark Mall for coaching her in basketball.

That, she said with a big smile, helped her during Survivor in an ancient game that resembled basketball.

"Thanks to Coach Mall, I scored six points," she said.

Boatwright also spoke of the Meadows family -- and in particular, Lori Meadows, a classmate who died from complications of diabetes.

"Lori was one of the biggest influences in my life," Boatwright said.

Boatwright plans to establish a foundation in Meadows' name later this year.

Although she was presented an oversized check for $1 million on CBS' "The Early Show," Boatwright isn't quite a millionaire.

She said that after taxes and tithing to her church, she barely was "half-a-millionaire." After taxes, Boatwright took home about $600,000.

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