Pok­lar schol­ar­ships show no sign of slow­ing down

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - SPORTS - By Mark Podol­ski mpodol­ski@news-her­ald.com @mpodo on Twit­ter

The Bret Pok­lar Me­mo­rial Schol­ar­ship cel­e­brated its fifth an­niver­sary May 17 at Panini’s in Wil­loughby.

Seven area stu­dent-ath­letes were hon­ored with schol­ar­ships that ex­ceeded more than $1,000 each.

No two peo­ple were more thrilled to award that money than the par­ents of Pok­lar, Sue and Terry.

Pok­lar was a for­mer Lake Catholic base­ball player who died as a Ma­rine in 2013. Since then, his fam­ily cre­ated the schol­ar­ship in Bret’s name and has raised thou­sands.

How many thou­sands in the five years of the schol­ar­ship is dif­fi­cult to pin­point, said Sue. When told it’s likely more than $50,000, it hit the mother who has worn the Ma­rine dog tag neck­lace of her late son ev­ery day since 2013.

“Just so awe­some,” said Sue. “That brings a tear my eye.”

It lit­er­ally did on this spe­cial evening. It’s one of the high­lights of the year for the fam­ily and friends of Bret Pok­lar.

The an­nual event at Panini’s brings the schol­ar­ship win­ners and their fam­ily and friends to­gether with Pok­lar’s fam­ily and friends. Sue and Terry are grate­ful ev­ery year. Smiles, hugs and tears are shared through­out the night.

“The way this event has grown in five years has been ba­si­cally just by word of mouth,” said Sue. “So won­der­ful. Makes me so happy.”

Oth­ers have helped the event grow from its in­fancy. UFC heavy­weight cham­pion Stipe Mio­cic has sup­ported the fall fund raiser, and for­mer Browns re­ceiver and Lake Catholic grad Joe Jure­vi­cius has handed out schol­ar­ships the past three years.

Bag­pipe player Bruce Greig, 69, of Wil­low­ick has opened the event the past five years with the play­ing of “Amaz­ing Grace” and the Ma­rine’s Hymn “The Halls of Mon­tezuma.”

Those few mo­ments were some of the most emo­tional of the night.

Greig met Terry years ago through their jobs, and made a con­nec­tion when the Pok­lar event be­gan. Years ago, Greig also lost a close fam­ily mem­ber, and wanted to be in­volved any way pos­si­ble.

“I’ve been play­ing the bag­pipes since I was 10,” said Greig, who grew up in Kirt­land. “And I love do­ing this ev­ery year for (the Pok­lars).”

Also at event was state Rep. John M. Rogers, DMen­tor-on-the-Lake. In Sep­tem­ber 2017, Rogers helped ded­i­cate a por­tion of Route 2 in Lake County, be­tween Route 306 and Lost Na­tion Road, as the Lance Cor­po­ral Bret M. Pok­lar Me­mo­rial High­way.

All were there to honor the seven re­cip­i­ents. If there was a head­liner it was Luke Marino of Wil­loughby South. Marino was a twoyear starter for the Rebels at line­backer, but it’s his work in the class­room that had Jure­vi­cius in awe while read­ing off his ac­com­plish­ments.

Marino’s 4.49 GPA and per­fect score of 36 on his ACT earned him a full aca­demic schol­ar­ship to Ge­or­gia Tech, where he will study to be an aero­space en­gi­neer.

“That’s one heck of a re­sume,” Jure­vi­cius said to Marino while pre­sent­ing him his schol­ar­ship.

Marino — nick­named by his team­mates “Cap­tain ACT” and “36” — was hon­ored to be a part of this cer­e­mony.

“It’s cool to be able to add to Bret’s mem­ory,” he said.

The other six win­ners in­clude:

• Men­tor’s Tadas Tatarunas, a stand­out quar­ter­back and bas­ket­ball player who will at­tend and play foot­ball at Walsh Univer­sity. Be­ing a re­cip­i­ent was ex­tra spe­cial for Tatarunas. His sis­terin-law’s brother Brian DeMarco went to school with Pok­lar at Lake Catholic.

“It’s just a great honor,” said Tatarunas.

• Bri­onna Havens, a cheer­leader at Madi­son. She will at­tend Kent State. Havens’ schol­ar­ship was pre­sented by Bret’s sis­ter-in­law Am­ber Selby.

• VASJ’s Pa­trick Sheri­dan, a stand­out foot­ball player and two-time state qual­i­fier in wrestling. He will at­tend and play foot­ball at Ash­land. Sheri­dan plans to ma­jor in crim­i­nal jus­tice, and hopes to work with home­land se­cu­rity or be­come a po­lice of­fi­cer like his father Terry, a long­time Eu­clid cop.

• Cade Acitelli of Lake Catholic, who will at­tend and play foot­ball at John Car­roll. He plans to be­come a Ma­rine af­ter grad­u­at­ing from col­lege.

• Nick Sim­cak, who played re­ceiver at Lake Catholic. He will at­tend and play at Walsh with Tatarunas.

“He and I have been prac­tic­ing, run­ning routes ever since the weather got nice,” said Tatarunas.

• Bran­don Carver, a pitcher at Lake Catholic who will at­tend Ohio State.

“What an ex­cep­tional group of kids,” said Sue Pok­lar.


The Ma­rine dog tag neck­lace of her late son Bret that Sue Pok­lar wears ev­ery day since Bret’s death in 2013.

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