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Tri-Valley Hero: Mano, a true role model

Pleasanton man receives award for commitment to church, youth groups, sports

Ken Mano just keeps on giving. A trail-blazer with Special Olympics, the Boy Scouts, and a host of Tri-Valley activities ranging from blood drives to the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, Mano serves the community at a hectic pace as well as his "day job" as a business analyst for Kaiser Permanente in Pleasanton.

Mano heads up the public affairs committee for the Pleasanton stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, itself an active, community-focused religious organization. He led local festivities two months ago that were part of the church's spectacular "A Century of Honor" national celebration, marking 100 years since the LDS church took on the Scouts as a chartered organization.

And his work continues today. He's currently finance chairman for the Twin Valley District for the Scouts and works on the Friends of Scouting campaign. He has been a Scoutmaster twice and Scout Committee chairman about three times as well as on the Council Explorer committee. Recently, he received the BSA District Award of Merit.

Mano, who is our Tri-Valley Hero award recipient in the Role Model category, doesn't do it all by himself. His wife Carolyn worked in the children's book section at the Pleasanton Library while their six children – Natalie, Gary, Janelle, Brian, Melissa and Trent – attended Amador Valley High School. Both became active in the Amador Boosters, with Carolyn working the snack bar at Boosters events, and Ken serving as the organization's treasurer for eight years.

Looking for ways for the Boosters to extend their community reach beyond the Amador campus, parents with special needs children suggested the Special Olympics. Mano talked the school district into providing school facilities without charge for a one-time event.

That was 10 years ago, and the two programs starting again this spring have the Manos planning again, reaching out to hundreds of participants from as far as Half Moon Bay and the Napa Valley.

When the Manos started hosting the Special Olympics events at Amador, Ken organized the volunteers for the events and became active in other community activities, such as Mormon Helping Hands projects for the city and serving as chairman of a Red Cross Blood Drive. He was honored to receive several awards from the city of Pleasanton, the Boosters and Special Olympics.

Recently, Special Olympics brought 83 teams, 850 athletes and the largest number of volunteers ever to a weekend of basketball at Amador and to the gyms at Harvest Park and Pleasanton Middle School as well. These players, some as young as 8 and a few even in their 60s, shared Mano's enthusiasm and pride over the success of the games.

Crowds jammed the gyms and cheered as players would make baskets, then race back down the court gleaming with pride to the loud applause over their accomplishment. Mano always gleams too, as those with special needs gain experience at competitive athletics at their purist and most inspiring level.

Mano said the goal is to give all persons with developmental disabilities a chance to become useful and productive, at the same time gaining the respect of their communities. Parents and guardians tell Mano that their child or home-cared adult had been reclusive and without many friends.

Coming to the Special Olympics and being in contact with others of similar ages and abilities spurred them to become more proactive back at home, where they often now find similar programs on a smaller but still beneficial scale.

Their disabilities range from mental handicaps, autism, Down syndrome and adults who have suffered brain injuries or damaging diseases.

Mano works with them all on a personal basis and also tutors volunteers on how to help meet each individual's needs – lessons that go a long way toward encouraging the volunteers to reach out on their own in special needs programs in their community.

With the continued help of volunteers and his church, Mano plans to keep serving Pleasanton and the Tri-Valley.

"Carolyn and I think it's really important for us to be involved in service, as we believe that it's through service to our fellow man that we are in the service to our God," he said. "I feel that being of service to others is the best way to live our faith and show our love for our fellow man."

Hero FYI

* Mano, a business analyst for Kaiser Permanente in Pleasanton, and his wife Carolyn have six children, all Amador Valley High School graduates.

* Born in California to Japanese parents, his family was forced to relocate to a "relocation center" in Utah during World War II, losing their thriving produce market and nice home in Los Angeles.

* He served as a missionary in Japan with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has been heavily involved in Boy Scouts for the past 35 years since moving to Pleasanton.

* Mano has served hundreds of hours in support of the Amador Boosters, volunteering as its treasurer and raising more than $1 million for Amador Valley High School with eScrip, leading other schools to start the program.

* He was instrumental in saving Emeryville High School's athletic program.

* Mano organized the Special Olympics program here, bringing hundreds of special needs individuals over the past decade to Amador for weekends of basketball and track geared to their capabilities.

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