SLIDESHOW: Rally to support Mark Hendricks has big turnout
There was a lot of buzz on Facebook and in the Ballard News-Tribune's comments section about it, but the turnout was still bigger than could have been expected at the rally to support Mark Hendricks today.
Rumors that Hendricks was placed on administrative leave for refusing to transfer to Federal Way appeared to have been true according to sources who have spoken to him, but it appears BGC officials decided to back down from their threat to fire him tonight. Hendricks was not allowed to go to the rally and the Ballard News-Tribune has still not been able to reach him for comment. (It's assumed that he is not allowed to speak to press).
The scene was colorful at the rally held in Ballard Baptist Church's parking lot, which is directly across from the Ballard Boys & Girls Club building. Children and parents waved home-made signs along the streets, passersby honked in support, headshot pictures of Hendricks were passed around and held in the air and children sported sharpied versions of Hendricks' infamous mustache. The Ballard News-Tribune heard a nearby audience member say something along the lines of, "Mark has had that mustache ever since birth!"
Noelle Olmstead, a rally organizer, repeatedly reminded the crowd and speakers to keep the message positive. And indeed, everyone who spoke was unendingly positive and hardly brought up details or harsh words about Lyons' decision to transfer him. Speakers and audience members ranged from little children who had just started the club (and their parents) to people who have known him for over twenty years, ever since he started -- and everybody in between.
One long-time club member who started in 3rd grade, J.T., now a junior at Roosevelt High School, reminisced about his first day at the school. "I was really, really nervous and I didn't know anyone really," he said. It was Hendricks who had made him feel welcome.
"To meet an adult that you've never even met before and be able to relate to him--" J.T. stopped, unable to talk anymore because he started crying. "Thank you," he said, and walked off. Someone yelled, "You go J.T.!"
Such tears were common through the night, with people talking about their moments with Mark and choking up just at the thought of him moving. Through the windows of the Boys & Girls Club building could be seen children and employees peeking through and watching. The night was punctuated at times by chants of "We love you Mark! We love you Mark! We love you Mark!" and cheers and screams, with little Hendricks photos dancing in the air.
Though the message was to stay positive, speakers and audience members were visibly upset, saddened and disappointed by the decision to transfer, or possibly fire, Hendricks.
"It's so difficult when people make decisions and you don't feel the respect. And that's what hurts the most. And that's what hurts the most," long-time club supporter and former member and employee Stephen Howey said, breaking into tears. "And that's why we're out here today to show him (Mark) he deserves better."
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