WILMINGTON, MA — Mike Burns was named the 2019 Wilmington Good Guy at Friday night’s 51st Annual Good Guy Dinner at the Wilmington Knights of Columbus Hall.
The Good Guy Award is “designed to honor that person, male or female, who goes beyond the normal call of duty to make Wilmington a better place in which to live.”
Burns is a member and Past President of the Wilmington Rotary Club, where he organizes the annual Wilmington Ice Bucket Challenge to benefit The Angel Fund and ALS research. Burns also spearheaded the past Wilmington Nights at the Lowell Spinners and the “Joy” Movie Premiere for Wilmington residents.
Burns was the brainchild behind the recent #1978/6 lawn signs to raise awareness of fatal drug overdoses in Massachusetts and Wilmington.
A member of Wilmington Community Television’s Board of Directors, Burns has hosted several community events for the station, including the town’s Fun on the Fourth festivities and the town’s 275 Anniversary Parade.
Burns is nearly a 30-year member of the Wilmington Recreation Commission. He has portrayed Santa Claus at many community events over the years, always donating any monies received back to charity.
Burns was a leader in the now defunct Wilmington Lions Club and a key contributor to its self-described terrible softball team, which suffered 27 consecutive losses, including a loss to the Perkins School for the Blind.
“I got a lot more out of volunteering than I ever gave. If you’re not involved in the community, I strongly suggest that you get involved with different organizations or programs. It’s very rewarding, very satisfying. I had the opportunity to meet terrific people and make wonderful lasting friendships,” Burns told a capacity crowd of family and friends. “This is such a wonderful honor. I feel humbled. I am honored by your presence.”
Burns was roasted by several town and state dignitaries.
“Behind the scenes, you have people like Mr. Burns who go out each and every day with a mission for the greater good. It’s volunteers like Mike that make Wilmington Wilmington,” said State Representative Dave Robertson, who presented Burns with a citation from the House of Representatives. “As a younger person, seeing folks like Mike is inspiring. It makes me and others want to give back to the community.”
“In a world that desperately needs positive civic engagement, Mike is the sterling example of what that means,” added State Senator Bruce Tarr, who brought his own citation for Burns from the Senate. “Mike is a good guy making this a great town.”
Selectman Jonathan Eaton, who succeeded Burns as President of the Wilmington Rotary Club, presented Burns with the town’s Revere Bowl.
“Mike taught me how to be a leader. He’s not only a friend, he’s a mentor,” said Eaton. “I learned about accountability and leadership from him. When things were tough, Mike got out in front. And, on the flip side, when things went well, Mike was all too quick to deflect the praise to those around him.”
“Mike Burns is a truly well-deserving recipient of the Good Guy Award. If someone from out of town were to ask what makes Wilmington so special… I’d introduce them to Mike Burns,” said Town Manager Jeff Hull. “He first began on the Wilmington Recreation Commission back in 1992 when three of the five current Selectmen didn’t even have licenses… He’s volunteer in so many capacities. His commitment to Wilmington, his family and the greater good run very deep. He is truly a good guy.”
A letter from Town Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator Samantha Reif recapped Mike’s involvement with the town’s substance abuse efforts, including launching a lawn sign and bracelet campaign.
“We are all fortunate to have worked alongside you as you continue to put residents first,” wrote Reif. “Your the embodiment of leadership and service.”
Friends of Mike Burns also took their turns at the microphone, honoring the man of the night.
“Mike is very quick witted and a great story teller. He doesn’t shy away from an occasional jab. He’s very self deprecating. He may poke fun at you, but he expects it back twice as much,” said friend and fellow Rotarian Chris Neville. “Soon after joining Rotary, Mike missed a meeting and was elected President of the Club. He was an asset to Rotary… When he comes up with ideas, he’s not only the planner, he’s the leader… He is a remarkable person. Wilmington is a much better place because of him.”
“Mike is a fun guy that has a fantastic approach to everything,” said best friend and fellow Rotarian Harry Cunningham. “He thinks of things to do everyday — wonderful ideas to benefit the community. He’s the most generous man I think I’ve ever met…. Everything he touches turns to gold… The man is magic.”
“Mike was at the forefront of every major activity in the town, whether it was the Lions Club, Fourth of July Celebration, or Memorial Day. He does his part and then some… Mike possesses the ability to make most situations into fun moments,” said longtime neighbor and friend Dominic Fiumara, who also thanked Mike for the support he provided to his family after one of Fiumara’s son suffered a near fatal accident in 2013.
Mike Winn, coach of the Lions Club softball team, reminisced about Burns’s playing days.
“What a great right fielder. One of his better ideas was to get some youth into the organization. We actually started to get pretty good. One year we even went to the playoffs. After the games, we had even more fun,” recalled Winn. “We came up with some cuckoo ideas to raise money for eye research for the Lions, including a cow flap contest, Halloween parties, and Legends Nights.”
Lisa Kapala, of Wilmington Community Television, discussed some of Burns’s contributions to the station.
“We hosted many events together for WCTV, including the Joy Movie premiere, Fun on the Fourth, and WCTV’s Organization Night,” said Kapala. “Mike won ‘Best Host’ in this year’s Golden Apples Award. He was also recently featured on WCTV’s Spotlight series…. He’s a great guy and always helpful to us at WCTV.”
Burn’s contributions to The Angel Fund were also highlighted.
“Through Mike’s efforts and his Rotary Crew, thousands of dollars have been raised for ALS Research,” said Ann Hadley, The Angel Fund’s Chief Development Officer. “Mike has truly become an integral part of the Angel Fund. He participates in our events, always with a smile and great sense of humor. He’s always lending a hand — he was recently the first person to make a donation in response to a Facebook campaign.”
“Mike Burns is a genuine doer. He is a shining example of someone who puts everyone’s interest above his self,” wrote Rich Kennedy, President of The Angel Fund in a letter read by Hadley. “He’s a selfless, determined organizer, who is always looking for ways to help without getting any attention. Your Wilmington Rotary Ice Bucket Challenge perfectly exemplifies The Angel Fund’s mission.”
Bob DiPalma, a member of the Wilmington Good Guy Committee, later presented Burns with a check to The Angel Fund in his name, donating a portion of all the evening’s ticket sales.
Burns’s children — Chris, Doug & Jamie — also took a turn at the podium.
“This is a great honor for my dad and the whole family. We couldn’t be prouder,” said Doug Burns. “He coached a lot of our teams growing up. We carried on the tradition of not winning a lot.”
“I try to model my life after what my father has done,” added Chris Burns, who recalled witnessing his father helping build the playground at the Shawsheen Elementary School during his childhood.
Last year’s Wilmington Good Guy Dianna DiGregorio presented Burns with the award and a book with all the nomination letters received on his behalf.
Steve Bjork emceed the evening. AJ’s Kitchen catered the event while Designs By Don provided the table pieces. Dick Searfoss took photographs. WCTV’s Tom Pazyra, Don Leard and Ron Buccheri filmed the event. 20 past Wilmington Good Guy Award Winners were in attendance.
Below are photos provided by Dick Searfoss:
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