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Auburn, Calif.- A young boy with a rare immunodeficiency disease and a Hollywood director who has become the boy’s close friend were among several extraordinary citizens honored with commemorative coins by the Placer County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

A shared passion for speedway racing helped make six-year-old Colton Nelson and director Gary Davis fast friends after Davis met the boy and his parents, Danielle and Dave Nelson, at their Auburn restaurant, Dingus McGee’s.

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Colton and Davis received their commemorative coins from 5th District Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery Tuesday.

“These two have formed a unique, inspirational and fostering relationship and friendship,” Supervisor Montgomery said while Colton stood at the podium with his parents and Davis, “that may never have happened if all four of the people in front of us today weren’t willing to be risk takers.”

Homebound much of his life until recently, Colton now is achieving his dream of getting out into the world and learning about racing with the help of Davis, an Auburn resident who is teaching his young friend the fundamentals and strategies of speedway racing.

“So a boy’s dream comes true and Gary is the one who made that possible,” Supervisor Montgomery told the audience. 

During Tuesday’s meeting, the board also presented commemorative coins to:

  • District 1: Michael Ziegler, President and Chief Executive Officer of PRIDE Industries, a Roseville-based company whose mission is finding good jobs for people with disabilities. Founded in 1966 by a small group of parents meeting in the basement of an Auburn church, the organization has grown to become one of the largest manufacturing and service companies in the Greater Sacramento region.ย 
  • District 3: Ed Sander, a community volunteer who has served on the Newcastle-Ophir Municipal Advisory Council since 1990 and helped organized the original Newcastle Mandarin Festival, a highly successful event now known as the Mountain Mandarin Festival.ย 
  • District 4: Eric J. Bose, a community activist who serves on the Board of Trustees of the Eureka Union School District and a member of the Granite Bay Municipal Advisory Council who played a pivotal role in a recent update of the Granite Bay Community Plan.
  • District 4: Steven Lease, a community activist who serves as chair of the PlacerArts Board of Trustees and president of the Auburn Daybreak Rotary Club. He is perhaps best known for his habit of baking and donating cookies for community causes. He recently passed the 24,000 mark in cookie donations.ย 

Second District Supervisor Robert M. Weygandt announced he will present a commemorative coin at an upcoming meeting to Mark Fowler, a long-time community leader and teacher at Lincoln High School who retired several years ago. Fowler was instrumental in creating the school’s highly successful School Farm Program. He was unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting.

Chairman Jim Holmes, the board’s 3rd District representative, presented a commemorative coin last month to Dr. Richard J. Burton, who is set to retire after serving as County Public Health Officer for the last 17 years. For the last decade, he has been Director of the Health and Human Services Department while continuing to serve as Public Health Officer.

At the board’s Nov. 5 meeting, Dr. Burton received his commemorative coin along with a resolution adopted by the full board commending him for his service to Placer County, the State of California and United States during his 30-year public service career.

The board created the commemorative coin program in 2002 to recognize acts of heroism, longstanding community service and exceptional acts that dramatically improved or impacted people’s lives.

The commemorative coins feature the county seal on one side. On the other side are the word “hero” and the image of an eagle with a star and sun rays in the background. The second side of the coin was designed by J. Randal Smith, an Auburn native who is a nationally known artist. His design won a competition coordinated by PlacerArts.

Recipients Honored

District 1 – Michael Ziegler

Since he joined PRIDE in 1983, Ziegler has led its transformation from a nonprofit organization dependent on federal and state funds to a self-sufficient enterprise that provides services to Fortune 500 companies and government agencies nationwide. During Ziegler’s tenure, PRIDE has grown from 65 employees and a $250,000 budget to a manufacturing and service company with more than 4,900 employees and annual revenue of more than $244 million.

“Michael and his business, PRIDE Industries, provide jobs for folks with disabilities,” 1st District Supervisor Jack Duran said. “He provides hope. He provides opportunities for folks to realize their full potential.”

Ziegler was recognized by the American Heart Association in 2006 with its “Heart of the Community” Award for his community leadership and generosity and was named the “Sacramentan of the Year” by the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce in 2011 for his many contributions to the region.

District 3 – Ed Sander

“Because of Ed’s dedication to his community and his tireless work, he is affectionately known as the ‘Mayor of Newcastle,’ ” Chairman Holmes said, recounting many of Sander’s contributions to his community. “And, it’s because of all of this that I’m pleased to present to Ed the 2013 commemorative coin.”

Twenty years ago, Sander helped organize and oversee the original Newcastle Mandarin Festival in downtown Newcastle. The event’s success later prompted a move to the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn.

Sander served on the original Board of Directors of the Newcastle Area Business Association and was a member of the Board of Directors of the Auburn Wild West Stampede rodeo. He also was on the board of the Newcastle Sanitary District, acted as board president for several years and become general manager and treasurer until the district was incorporated into the South Placer Municipal Utility District.

Sander was a charter member of the Newcastle Golden Spike Lion’s Club. 

District 4 – Eric J. Bose

A member of the Granite Bay Municipal Advisory Council since 2008, Bose served as vice chairman for one year and chairman for two years.  He also co-chaired the Granite Bay Community Plan Update Committee.

At Tuesday’s meeting, 4th District Supervisor Kirk Uhler said Bose did a masterful job on the community plan update, saying that he won everyone’s trust with a caring, collaborative approach.

“When we were done with 14 months of meetings and 20 different public meetings dealing with 18 chapters that I believe are the Granite Bay Community Plan, Eric was recognized by everyone, universally, in the community who participated in that plan as being the glue in the binding that held the new Granite Bay Community Plan together,” Supervisor Uhler said.

Bose was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Eureka Union School District in 2010 and has volunteered as a recreational soccer coach for the Eureka Youth Soccer Club for several years.

District 4 – Steven Lease

“What you do in the community is not just impressive, but remarkable,” Supervisor Uhler told Lease. The supervisor added, addressing the audience, “In his spare time, he has decided to really make an impact in the community around him and again be reflective of that giving heart by baking and donating chocolate chip cookies to different community groups.”

Supervisor Uhler reported that as of Nov. 18, Lease had baked and donated almost 24,000 cookies for community causes. Lease responded with a quick update, saying he brought cookies for board members and the audience and reporting that his latest tally is 24,212.

While unemployed several years ago, Lease founded the Active Job Seekers of America and helped hundreds of people with their job searches during the Great Recession. In 2009, Steven went to work for a financial investment firm and continues to work there.

Supervisor Uhler noted that Lease’s philosophy is: live every day to the fullest, build relationships for tomorrow and help others with no expectation of anything in return.

District 5 – Colton Nelson and Gary Davis

“Colton has overcome amazing odds in his young life,” Supervisor Montgomery said, noting that the immunodeficiency disease he has is so rare that only 325 documented cases have been identified in the world since 1966.  This disease severely limits Colton’s immune system from staving off infections and has other debilitating effects.

His malady has isolated Colton from many of the normal joys of childhood and has limited his opportunities to socialize with friends. As he approached school age, Colton had a tough time remaining homebound and was soon begging to be allowed to do anything that would get him out of the house.

His passion for speedway racing prompted his parents to decide he should live as normal a life as possible despite the risks. They introduced him to the local speedway and to Davis, a Placer County native.

“It seems funny being recognized for something so easy: just to be friends to a good family and a terrific little kid,” Davis said after receiving his commemorative coin.

Supervisor Montgomery reported that Davis has had a long and storied career that reads like one of the movies he has worked on. He is a Hollywood director and one of the top stunt coordinators in Hollywood. He has been Stuntman of the Year three times.

Davis also mentors local filmmakers and has sponsored young men and women who aspire to racing careers.

He met Colton at the moment his parents decided to let him live as normal a life as possible. Soon, Davis found himself in the pits teaching his new six-year-old friend the basics of racing and tips about race strategy.

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