HAMLET — The Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration kicked off the weekend with the MLK Gala.
At 9 p.m. on Friday more than 200 people showed up for the food, the dancing and to honor Daryl Mason, chief of operations at Leak Street High School.
“This is the biggest turn out we’ve seen in recent years,” said Kim Harrington, member of the celebration’s steering committee. “We usually sit between 100 to 150, so the turn out tonight has been excellent.”
Despite the dancing and laughter that was going on throughout the event, Harrington suspected the crowd was due to the honoring of Mason and all that he has done for the youth in the community.
Liroxia Wall, who assisted with the food at the gala, definitely appreciated the efforts that Mason made for her son.
“I know for a fact that without him, my son would not have completed school,” Wall said.
While Mason sat in a place of honor during the gala, he was very modest about the recognition. He stood up to say a few words, but directed all the attention away from him.
“I’m not much for the spotlight, and I’m not the one who should be honored,” Mason said. “It’s my staff that deserves this honor. They are on the front lines. I’m just honored to have worked with them.”
Bruce Stanback, former chairman of the Richmond County Board of Education, spoke on the things that Mason has done for the kids at Leak Street.
“These kids are special to him,” Stanback said. “He has taken them and propelled them to the next level. There are a lot of people who write these kids off. Mason is the reason these kids graduate. I admire him, respect him and this is an honor befitting for all he’s done.”
Malcolm Hayes, of Rockingham, is one of those students that Mason helped influence. He graduated from Leak Street in 2010 and went on to culinary school. He just recently graduated fro culinary school in December of 2013, and said he owes a lot of his success to Mason.
“He is one of the best men I have known,” Hayes said. “He’s a father, a leader and a motivator to all of us.”