Ohio Valley Unsung Hero: Bonnell: a man for all seasons

MARTINS FERRY — Ken Bonnell is known for his music acumen.

But what some don’t know is that he has a bit of a sports background, too.

For many, Bonnell is recognized for his work in music education. He spent 25 years teaching music and nearly two decades working with the McDonald’s OVAC All-Star Band.

But recently, he spent a day toting the roundball, serving as head of the Ohio River Valley Elk Lodge No. 231’s annual Hoop Shoot competition.

“I enjoy it,” he said.

This year’s event took place earlier this month at the Martins Ferry Rec Center and brought together 34 area youngsters hoping their free throw shooting abilities could take them to the district level in Dover.

Bonnell has served as chairperson of the popular event for three years.

“I get other members involved,” he explained. “I had 19 other members here during the day because we need judges on each court, and then we need ball retrievers and we had people help with registration.

“We also run a concession stand at which all the food was free. We had the ladies of the Elks taking care of that.”

It’s been a process, but Bonnell said he pretty much has organization of the event, which features multiple divisions for boys and girls, down to a science.

“I sat back the first year, and I was a little nervous,” Bonnell, also the local group’s Exaulted Ruler (or president), said. “Then, last year, it got a little easier, and this year, it got a little easier.

“I’m just fortunate the other members support it and give me a hand.”

Bonnell has been giving youngsters guidance for years.

A 1971 graduate of St. Clairsville High School, he studied music at Morehead State. And it was there where his love for basketball blossomed a bit.

“While I was there, I took up some sports-related things,” he explained. “I took a basketball officiating class and refereed intramurals.

“And, once I got out of college, I worked a couple of years at the junior high and reserve.”

Bonnell stepped away from officiating as his career in music education grew. After a short stint at Beallsville, he started working in the Buckeye Local district.

“I was at a lot of buildings in Buckeye,” he chuckled.

There, he brought his love of basketball to younger students.

“I got a lot of kids interested in basketball at the elementary level,” he said. “We had a tournament and at the end of the year they go trophies.”

Bonnell stepped away from music education in 2000 and became an elementary principal, where he spent the final 11 of his 36 years in education.

But through his membership in the Elks, he remains close to basketball and children.

“Our lodge encompasses from Steubenville down to Shadyside and west to St. Clairsville,” Bonnell explained.

So, when he went to organize the Hoop Shoot, he had to make sure all children in that area were aware of the event, through mailers, applications and the like. That process began in September.

Bonnell will follow the age group winners from the recent local event to Dover in January, and further if need be.

In the meantime, he’ll return to his first love — music. He’s a member of an all-mens chorus “Brothers in Song.” The group, which performs at area care facilities and the like. They’ll be giving a Christmas concert Dec. 10 at Thoburn United Methodist Church in St. Clairsville.

If you know of someone in sports in the Ohio Valley whom I could feature as an Ohio Valley Unsung Hero, drop me a line at rthorp@timesleaderonline.com or via Twitter @RickThorp1