“All kids need is a little help, a little hope and somebody who believes in them.” – Pat and Jennet Ballinger, quoting Magic Johnson
For Jennet and Pat Ballinger, it’s not the grand gestures, but rather, “a lot of little things along the way” that have impacted countless lives over the years. For their collective impact in enriching the Dubois community by helping youth reach their full potential, they are named the honorees of the Boys & Girls Club of Dubois’ 4th Annual Awards & Recognition Breakfast to be held Tuesday, June 27, at the National Museum of Military Vehicles.
Having both lost a parent when they were in high school, Pat and Jennet have always had a special place in their hearts for all children, and especially those who come from broken families or have experienced loss in their lives. Their love for youth inspired them to become teachers, and they moved to Dubois 46 years ago for Pat’s first teaching and coaching job. After teaching preschool and working at the Dubois Frontier, Jennet began her career with middle school students. “Encouraging kids to do their best, whether they were competing in wrestling, welding, singing, writing a paragraph, whatever it was…that’s what we were striving for – to get them out there and be productive in their lives,” Pat said.
Their care for their students extended beyond the classroom, as Jennet and Pat made it a priority to attend their extracurricular activities like concerts and plays. The goal was to acknowledge individual interests and “show that we care about what they’re doing,” said Jennet. Their support impacted not only Fremont County students, but foreign students as well, as they hosted five international students from Japan and Costa Rica.
Pat and Jennet were actively involved not only in the lives of their students, but also in the lives of their two children. Pat served as a Boy Scout merit counselor and Jennet as a Girl Scout leader. One of their most memorable trips was when they took a 56-mile hike with handcarts during the 150th Anniversary of the Oregon Trail with their son and his Scout troop. Now retired, they continue to enjoy traveling. Pat and Jennet say they were blessed to raise their children at Lava Creek Ranch, where they were caretakers for 24 years.
Pat and Jennet have received numerous awards in their lives. Pat is an acclaimed coach, who was named the Wyoming Coaches Association 1A-2A Wrestling Coach of the Year and twice named the 1A Football Coach of the Year. He was honored with a special appearance and speech by Olympic-wrestler Rulon Gardner at his retirement party. Rulon shared that, growing up as a farm kid, he needed someone like Pat in his life to believe in him and his potential. “Wrestling teaches you discipline in life and throughout your life,” said Pat.
Jennet was named Fremont County School District #2 Teacher of the year, DARE Educator of the Year, and received many other awards. She was instrumental in bringing the Expedition Yellowstone to Dubois. Despite the many awards, Jennet and Pat believe words from former students are the most touching. “The awards don’t mean as much as when the kids come back and say, ‘Thank you for believing in me,’” they agreed.
Married for 49 years, Pat and Jennet are the proud parents of two children and one grandson. Their son, Beau, directs Wish of a Lifetime, an AARP charitable affiliate in Colorado. Their daughter, Kristina, works as a pharmacist in Alaska, where she is a Captain in the US Public Health Services Commissioned Corps.
In their retirement, they continue to focus on kids and community as members of Kiwanis. When Santa is stranded elsewhere, Pat has stood in at various community events. Pat and Jennet give the most magical gift of all: believing in one’s potential. As Pat said, “Kids are always eager to learn something, and I’d like to teach them as much as I could.”
There is no cost to attend the breakfast, but guests are asked to make a meaningful donation to support the Club’s game-changing mission of providing bright futures for Dubois’ youth. Breakfast is served at 6:30 a.m. and the program begins at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, June 27. All proceeds support the Boys & Girls Club of Dubois. The Club offers out of school programming for youth in a safe environment with positive and caring mentors.