Foundation shines ‘Starlight’ on champions

The Country Legends Guitar will be auctioned at the Starlight Awards to benefit Maryville City Schools Foundation. To bid online, go to eBay and search for Country Legends Guitar.

The Country Legends Guitar will be auctioned at the Starlight Awards to benefit Maryville City Schools Foundation. To bid online, go to eBay and search for Country Legends Guitar.

The Starlight Awards may be a little “star struck” Saturday night. While the stars of the gala, black-tie optional evening at the Capitol Theatre are definitely the six Starlight honorees, there’s a black case holding some star power of its own making an appearance.

The Country Legends Guitar has been donated by one of the Starlight award winners, Ted “Gunner” Ousley, to be auctioned off to benefit the Maryville City Schools Foundation. On-line bidding has already started, with the highest bidder on-line being given the opportunity to be on the phone when the live auction starts and continue to bid.

WIVK-radio personality Gunner says the guitar has been signed by such greats as Merle Haggard, George Jones, The Oak Ridge Boys, Terri Clark, Mel Tillis, Chubby Checker and Gene Watson. A photo album of some of the stars signing or posing with the guitar is also part of the package. A total of 20 signatures are on the guitar.

The community will roll out the red carpet at the Capitol Theatre to honor community leaders and special friends of education at the sixth annual Starlight Awards. It will be a gala evening with red carpet presentations, food and music, organizers said.

This is the first time the event has also been a fundraiser for the foundation. The 6:30 p.m. event is already sold out, and the foundation has also secured three major sponsorships: Clayton, Alcoa, Inc., and Blount Gastroenterology. Media sponsor is Blount Today.

Barbara Jenkins, executive director of Maryville City Schools Foundation, said the planners want this to be a memorable event. “We wanted to make it a very special, very fun night,” she said. “Doing it at the Capitol really sets the theme.”

Special moments are planned, including photographer Wendy Tittsworth, who will be on hand to take pictures of the honorees as they walk down the red carpet leading into the theater. Dr. Todd White will serve as master of ceremonies again this year. For musical entertainment, the band “Smooth Groove” is scheduled to perform.

To bid online on the Country Legends Guitar, go to and search for the Country Legends Guitar. The online bidding on eBay will end at noon on Friday, Feb. 20. The highest bidder from the eBay auction will have the opportunity to bid against the live audience at Maryville City Schools Foundation’s Starlight Awards Gala on Saturday, Feb. 21. The highest bidder during the live auction will take home the Country Legends Guitar.

For more information about the guitar, please contact the Maryville City Schools Foundation at 865-982-7121 or

The award recipients are:

Outstanding Young Alumni

Carly Christine Waugh, MHS Class of 1994

Carly Christine Waugh graduated Maryville High School in 1994. After college, she became a firefighter battling fires throughout the West. Her firefighting crew had been called to Oregon to a 60,000-acre forest fire where Carly was in charge of a helicopter unit. Waugh damaged her back when she fell from a bluff, hit a rock and went into a pool of water. A fellow firefighter saved her. She has since worked tirelessly in rehabilitation. While she uses a wheelchair, she is now a handbike racer and is becoming committed to adaptive sports such as triathlons.

Distinguished Alumni

Sherrod Blankner, MHS Class of 1986

Ted “Gunner” Ousley, MHS Class of 1976

Sherrod Blankner’s nomination form describes her as a versatile and brilliant student at Maryville High School, where she was valedictorian in 1986. She represented MHS with distinction at Yale University where she graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1990. She is a gifted writer who paints with words. At Yale she became fascinated with creating visual fables with photography and painting.

Blankner has lived in the San Francisco area since 1993. She has distinguished herself as an accomplished and highly successful impressionistic painter and graphic arts designer and writer.

Ted “Gunner” Ousley graduated Maryville High School in 1976. Ousley is a well-known radio personality at WIVK radio. He also leads special programs for the military including traveling to Iraq to report live from the front line. Other activities to help the military include recording wishes to be sent home to families and airing live phone calls to and from families and their military soldiers.

In addition, Gunner sponsored a young girl from Iraq and kept her and her mother in his home while she had surgery to improve her spina bifida condition. Ousley emcees numerous non-profit events throughout East Tennessee, including the Foothills Fall Festival. He always lets it be known that Blount County is his home.

Distinguished Service Award

The late James C. Campbell

Jim Campbell was a positive influence on everyone he came in contact with, former Maryville High School athletic director Jerry Thompson said. “He spent his entire life in an effort to make things better for others.”

Thompson praised Campbell, who was athletic director at the high school, for the impact he had on the staff he worked with, and the students he taught and coached.

“If you knew anything about Jim, you knew he was always concerned about the welfare of others before he was concerned about the welfare of himself,” Thompson said. ‘He was always involved and engaged in the community.”

Thompson said Campbell was a unique person. “He used the vehicle of athletics to teach. He used those sporting events to better people’s lives so kids would have the opportunity to work hard, train hard, understand self-sacrifice and learn how to be good young adults and good citizens of the community.”

Family Partnership

Don Story

The nomination form for Don Story say his life can best be described by one word: Service. He served Maryville High School and the Maryville City Schools for more than 40 years. During that time, he was a teacher, coach and administrator. Service to the system was not limited to his professional life. As a private individual, he has donated money to every school in the system.

Community Partnership

Randy Burleson and Aubrey’s Restaurant

Randy Burleson and Aubrey’s Restaurant in Maryville was nominated because of the many ways the management and staff gives to help the community, said the organizers. The restaurant received several nominations for the Community Partnership award.

Assistant principal Joe Pinkerton at Maryville High School said he was glad when he heard Aubrey’s had been given a Starlight award. “What they do for us as a school as well as a system here in the community is outstanding,” he said.

Pinkerton said when the restaurant first opened, the management sought out ways to help the schools.

“Every time we have a new teacher or need something, they’ve donated every type of gift certificate. They take care of our sports teams before games at a very, very reduced price. They do Maryville High School coaches’ dinner and the Blount County Basketball jamboree,” Pinkerton said.

“They’re always so generous. Anytime we have something where we need a little help for the student incentive program, they help. We may ask for 20 or 30 gift certificates, and they give us 100. They’re always very glad to be in the community and are very supportive.”

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