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After my father passed away, he became almost like a second father to me. He helped me through some really hard times. He taught me a lot about life and how to be a man. How to face up to the problems life has handed you and confront them head-on. How to be more honest than you even thought you could be... Charlie Rich, Jr.

It’s been said that a prophet is rarely honored in his own land. And that might be true about most who have left behind their roots to adventure the world to exercise their greatness or fame.

But when it comes to Freddy Fender, a San Benito boy who made the most of life with his hard work, good spirits and big heart, there’s a legacy for others to follow.

I suppose it was destiny that allowed me to play with Freddy," writes Charlie Rich, Jr., son of legend Charlie Rich, the Silver Fox, and the band leader for the Freddy Fender Band for 20 years on his Web site. "It's not an accident that he won his last Grammy Award at a young sixty-two years of age. He just plowed on, always with an eye to the future. He overcame life threatening illnesses, survived multiple organ transplants, and endured personal hardships. He's honest to a fault."

Saturday night, March 29, friends and fans of Freddy Fender will gather at Louie’s Backyard on South Padre Island for the 2008 Freddy Fender Humanitarian Award Ceremony, and annual gala that honors deserving men and women who have made a contribution to the Valley community - much like the man the awards are named after.

The START Center, a nonprofit that serves low-income people in San Benito, is staging the event for the eight year.

The event will showcase the music of Charlie Rich Jr. (who'll play a musical tribute to his father), the Freddy Fender Band and rock 'n' roll legend Sam the Sham ("Wooly Bully" and "Lil' Red Riding Hood"). The musical event following the awards ceremony has come to be known as the “Tex-Mex Legends Concert and is one of the highlights of the evening.

The 2007 winners are William P.C. Hudson, Yolanda and Ramon De Leon, and Glenna and David Heavin.

Hudson is one of the original board members of the Freddy Fender Scholarship Fund and the South Texans for Good Government, the founding chairman of the South Texas Talent Commission.

Ramon De Leon is a cofounder of the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center in San Benito, a founding member of Cinesol Latino Film Festival and a longtime supporter of public broadcasting. His wife Yolanda is a cofounder of Monica’s House, which provides investigation and physical and psychological services to abused and neglected children. She identified and met those needs during her eight-year term as Cameron County District Attorney.

David Heavin, CEO and founder of Ideas In Action, was stricken with polio as a young boy and doctors told his parents that he would never walk again. But Heavin turned his earlier polio into a ‘portfolio,’ as he worked his way up from salesman to manager for a U.S. fitness company. In the process, he became a national motivational speaker.

He and his wife, Glenna, took a home-based business on a card table in their bedroom and built a world-class marketing and promotional products company in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley.

The fundraiser-event is open to the public. Tickets are $50 per person.

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