KNOXVILLE (WATE) - What makes East Tennessee, East Tennessee?
We believe it's the uniqueness of its people. And at its best, it's a spirit that transcends the normal and becomes the extraordinary.
We want to celebrate that uniqueness and so we are starting a new series on 6 News. We call it the Spirit of East Tennessee.
For our first story, we begin with a look at the sometimes overlooked contributions of grandparents.
There are 70 million grandparents living in the nation. It's a third of the U.S. population with nearly 2 million new grandparents added every year.
Many feel blessed to have reached that stage in their lives.
John Sibley smiles at that notion. He is the proud grandfather of six, three boys who live here and three grandchildren who live in Louisiana.
"I tease them all the time that I've got a group of knuckleheads but they're great," said Sibley. "Their grades are good and have good attitudes."
His oldest grandchild is graduating from LSU this year and will soon be headed to medical school.
"She actually named me. It's "papaw". I never questioned that," he said. "I hear some grandparents, 'Oh no. You're not going to call me that'. I say, 'I didn't have a choice and was not about to take that honor away from her'."
The Center has been sponsoring this "Grandest Grandparent" event since the early 1990s. The grandparents are chosen through essays.
The essays speak to the importance of the bond of family and the many selfless acts the grandparents do on a daily basis.
Here's a sample of some of the essays:
"She is very honest," said one.
"She is constantly thinking and taking care of others," said another.
"We have to remind her to take care of herself."
"He is the best grandpa ever!"
Rande Sibley certainly thinks his grandfather is one of the best.
"My granddad means everything for me," he said. "He's been a role model for my family and many other families and helped the community in so many ways and its inspired me and my brothers to help the community as well."
"One of the joys of life is you pray to live to be a grandparent," says John Sibley. "And grandchildren love you in spite of yourself. They think grandparents can do no wrong," he said, smiling.
John believes grandparents also contribute in a very real way. He believes they tie today to a family's yesterday.
"In my mind, it's the foundation of the phrase "it takes a village". At the bottom or foundation of the village is your grandparents and those who went before you," said Sibley. "And it's important for our children, because it's a living history."
And so this Saturday, Oct. 27 at 11:00 a.m. at the Crowne Plaza in Downtown Knoxville, 23 extraordinary grandparents will be honored.
They are truly an example of the Spirit of East Tennessee.
If you know someone who you believe is an example of the Spirit of East Tennessee, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.