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UPARC's lesson: Give your best

Published Oct. 6, 2005

Surely among the most important things the Upper Pinellas Association for Retarded Citizens does is to teach its clients to be as much as they can be.

Three speakers at Tuesday's 12th annual UPARC Foundation Interfaith Prayer Breakfast coincidentally struck that theme.

Jerry Figurski, president of the foundation board of directors, talked of UPARC's loving care of his daughter Tracy since she was 3{. He recalled how, about age 11, she made sure she had his attention one day, tied her shoe laces and then, with eyes wide and face beaming, asked, "Are you proud of me?"

She is now 21, living in a UPARC group home and employed in its workshop.

UPARC client Herb Brunk, 27, was certainly beaming as he told the crowd of 325 about his job at a candy factory, for which he is paid every Friday. "I'm very pleased about myself," said Brunk, who lives in UPARC's Waterfall Apartments in Clearwater.

University of Florida football coach Steve Spurrier, the breakfast's featured speaker, shared some of the coaching philosophy of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, including, "Never cease to be the best you can be."

Fred Fisher, the reigning Mr. Clearwater and notable University of Florida booster and benefactor, got the first big rise out of the crowd at the Belleview Mido Resort Hotel when he reminded Spurrier that last year's breakfast speaker "went on to win the national championship." He was referring to Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden.

Spurrier predicted a Gators finish among the top five college teams next season.

WTVT-Ch. 8 sportscaster Dick Crippen, a new member of the UPARC Foundation board, introduced Spurrier and recalled his year as a Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback during the inaugural season of 1976, when the Bucs lost all 14 games.

Spurrier told about a team meeting with head coach John McKay before the Buffalo Bills visited Tampa Stadium. McKay said he felt this was a team the Bucs could beat if they played better on the offensive and defensive lines. "That's where games are lost," he said.

McKay then woke up offensive lineman Howard Fest, who was in the back of the room, Spurrier said. "Where are games lost?" McKay asked. "Playing with the Buccaneers," Fest answered.

Spurrier remembered sharing the misery with popular running back Jimmy DuBose, who was sitting in the front row Tuesday. DuBose ("Du! Du! Du!" the crowd always chanted, which initially sounded like boos to newcomers) had been, like Spurrier, a popular player for the Gators before joining the Bucs. He was with the Bucs from 1976 to 1980.

DuBose lives in Tampa and is a supervisor with GTE.

Figurski proudly told of UPARC serving more than 400 individuals and said, "I would love to take each of you on a tour" of the UPARC facilities at the Long Center.

But there is "so much more to do," he added, pointing out that 150 people wait for space in group homes and 180 wait for jobs in the workshop. That is expected to be the theme of a coming capital campaign.