TAMPA —- The first woman to be on a box of Wheaties, tiny Mary Lou Retton, overcame tremendous odds to win America's first Olympic Gold Medal in gymnastics in 1984.
Cheering a highlight reel as if it were a live performance, 800 guests rose to the familiar Olympic Fanfare theme song at the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida's annual Women of Distinction luncheon Tuesday.
"I like watching it, too," said the 4-foot-9 gymnast who took home gold in the individual all-around. "I look so big when it's projected on a big screen."
Retton won five medals in the 1984 Olympics, the most of any athlete that year, adding a silver for team and vault and a bronze for uneven bars and floor exercise to her gold medal.
The Girl Scouts honored four "distinctive" champions of medicine, business, law and education; an Under-40 Woman of Promise and inducted a longtime volunteer into its Hall of Fame. A Brownie or Scout escorted each of them to the stage in the tent Pavilion at the Bryan Glazer Family Jewish Community Center.
"Don't let other people put limits on you," said Retton, 49, "the little kid from a small coal mining town in West Virginia" who chanced to meet the "King of Gymnastics, Bella Karoly."
The first gymnast and youngest inductee into the USOC Olympic Hall of Fame recalled knee surgery followed by "manic rehab" just six weeks prior to the Olympics.
Now she's a mother of four girls and a gymnastics mom. Her second oldest daughter, McKenna Kelley, helped LSU to the Southeastern Conference Championship title last weekend.
Girls Scouts CEO Jessica Muroff said the luncheon will help the organization to reach championship fundraising totals. The agency's best-attended lunch raised $130,000 to serve nearly 20,000 girls and nearly 8,500 adult members in Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sumter counties
Meet the honorees
Rosemary Armstrong founder and executive director of Crossroads for Florida Kids, has mentored numerous attorneys like herself who represent children in their dependency and delinquency proceedings, resulting in thousands of hours of pro bono legal services. Armstrong has devoted more than 20 years to Bay Area Legal Services, serving three terms as president, primarily representing women with children who were victims of domestic violence.
Catherine Lynch Buckhorn, University of South Florida professor of obstetrics and gynecology and First Lady of Lady, wife of Mayor Bob Buckhorn, consults on women's health issues, both humans and primates of Lowry Park Zoo and Busch Gardens. Dr. Lynch said cookie sales, "teach teamwork, business and creative thinking."
Doretha Edgecomb recently retired after 52 years of service to the Hillsborough County School District, filling roles ranging from reading teacher, middle school learning specialist and parent involvement coordinator to elementary school principals and, from 2004-2016, school board member overseeing a total budget of $2.9 billion for the 8th largest school district in the nation.
Debbie White, former vice president of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, has a three decade volunteer legacy at Morton Plant Mease Health Care Foundation; Safety Harbor Public Library Foundation; Dunedin Fine Arts Center; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas, Ruth Eckerd Hall Foundation and YWCA of Tampa Bay. She is past-president of Leadership Pinellas.
Melanie Griffin, the 2017 Women of Promise, the under 40 honoree, is managing shareholder of the Dean Mead law firm and mentor to hundreds of high school and law students and other professionals.
Marion Rich, a 2002 Woman of Distinction, was inducted into the Hall of Fame for decades of volunteering for numerous non-profits and helping raise an accumulated $1 million for Girl Scouts of West Central Florida, Morton Plant Mease Health Care Foundation, American Heart Association and the Film Foundation of Tampa Bay.