TAMPA — A few weeks ago, Sandy MacKinnon found out his wife, Dottie Berger MacKinnon, would be named a Tampa club's outstanding citizen of the year.
It was a top-secret announcement, and thus began his covert mission: organizing about 20 relatives to attend the Governor's Day Luncheon at the Florida State Fair, where they sat behind the cloak of one-way mirrors. And maybe more difficult: getting his wife there without suspicion.
He succeeded. But when her introduction was read, some of his accomplishments started popping up, too.
"I thought, 'I hope I didn't send them my resume and they got it mixed up,' " MacKinnon said. "Then the more they read it …"
It became clear. On Valentine's Day, the Tampa Metro Civitan Club named the couple co-citizens of the year.
Berger MacKinnon is battling cancer of the bile duct, and family members said she has outlived doctors' predictions. Last week, she had a park renamed for her and a statue dedicated to her, but to be honored side-by-side with her husband was especially touching, she said.
"To be able to share it with Sandy, it's very special," she said after the ceremony. "It's not just me — we absolutely are a team."
Still, each resume is impressive on its own.
Sandy MacKinnon: Bank of Tampa director; Florida State Fair Authority chairman; University of Tampa trustee; board member and past chairman of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce; and past chairman of Brandon Community Hospital, among other posts.
Dottie Berger MacKinnon: former Hillsborough County commissioner; Guardian ad Litem; co-founder and past chairwoman of Joshua House in Lutz, which houses abused and neglected children; and founder and chairwoman of A Kid's Place in Brandon, which keeps foster children with their siblings.
"The list goes on," said past recipient James Ferman as he introduced the couple. "But wait a minute, it can't be one person. It must be the result of a team, the result of a marriage — and what a marriage."
The couple will celebrate 10 years this month, but said Monday was the special day. Moments before receiving the award, their son sent them a text message announcing the birth of his daughter, their 17th grandchild.
The award concluded the annual Governor's Day Luncheon at the state fair, where hundreds ate corn dogs and funnel cake and listened to addresses from Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Gathered by the stage after the announcement were four brothers and a sister of Berger MacKinnon.
For the fourth time since their sister was diagnosed with cancer last year, they had driven down from Kentucky.