Poklar scholarships show no sign of slowing down
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.