Local man uses own life lessons to help guide Mineral County youths

Sheri Samson
Hawthorne’s Michael Stephens is heavily involved in local youth sports, and is also the man behind bringing back the 4th of July fireworks show.

One never knows how a young boy will turn out when he is raised by a single mother in a fatherless home, but Michael Stephens used his own childhood experiences to strengthen him as the father and mentor he is today.

When he graduated from Mineral County High School in 1998, he admits having rough times and not always making good choices, but he credits one school mentor for believing in him throughout his journey and that was Ann Kee.

“When I screwed up, she showed me how I could do better. I knew I could go to her with anything and never feel judged because she believed in me. That’s what kids need – especially when their home life and circumstances aren’t perfect. Everyone needs someone they trust who really cares about them and she taught me how to help kids like I do now,” Stephens shared.

With a passion for sports and kids, Stephens has found his way into the hearts of local children and teens who may never have had the chance to play team sports. As a family man, his own children are immersed into seasonal sports, with an emphasis in football and basketball.

“Local involvement means early morning trips away, traveling to games that aren’t nearby and a lot of out-of-pocket costs, but it is so worth it. I count it all as a dedication toward seeing the goals of our local kids met and my own family reaching experiences they normally wouldn’t have.”

When Stephens graduated, he had a full ride to the University of Washington to play football with the Huskies, but admittedly bad choices put him working a minimal job in Reno for a few years, until he returned to Hawthorne to assist his mother.

Stephens worked with YCAC (Young Citizens Activity Center) and within the school system. Today he even works with Ann Kee, which he appreciates while reflecting on how far he has come.

“I love football. I watch it with my kids and it will always be my favorite game. I feel blessed to have a family that really gets into sports since it teaches a lot about team work, thinking out plays and running the ball. Life is all about skill and commitment, so I encourage it at all levels of sports which I coach. It doesn’t matter the age of a child, it is important to know we need to work together, stay true to your commitment and do our best.”

And in doing his best, Stephens shared that he was sad when the traditional 4th of July community fireworks stopped a few years ago, so he decided to do something about it. Last year he approached the county commissioners about a community fireworks show at the park using financial donations and he received approval and assistance from several at the Hawthorne Fire Department, including T.C. Knight. As donations came in, Evelyn Martinez from the Thundercloud Fireworks display in Schurz assisted in securing enough fireworks to create a 25-minute show of screeching rockets and exploding waterfalls, which everyone enjoyed and appreciated.

This year donations have poured in greater than last year. The 2017 Community Fireworks Show, to be held at the Hawthorne Adult Softball field, July 4 at 9:15 p.m., will be a 45-minute to one hour ah-inspired spectacular. The local Schurz firework stands have all contributed to the show, including Bad Jacks, Four Seasons, Rezboom and Thundercloud, who was so instrumental in last year’s display.

Sparklers will be handed out starting at 8:30 p.m. to cars with little ones and families are asked to bring their own chairs or blankets for seating. By 9:30 p.m. the Hawthorne skies will be full of lit mortars to pyro cakes, firecrackers to supervised sparklers, so everyone can enjoy this safe, family night of our nation’s Independence together. Stephens is grateful for the many people assisting him that evening with the show, parking and oversight, field prep, fire safety and every donation received. “I appreciate all the guidance I have had with this project.”

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