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Chick-fil-A franchise Owner/Operator Rusty Wylie and Camp Journey owner Suzette Coates have been selected as the Katy Area Hometown Heroes to be recognized by The Arc of Katy in 2019.

The Arc of Katy launched the Katy Area Hometown Heroes program in 2018 to demonstrate the organization’s pride in the community and to recognize those who make it a great place to live for its program participants, members and families.

The dictionary defines ‘Hero’ as one who is admired for achievements and noble qualities; one who shows great courage. Both Wylie and Coates were selected by a committee of Katy area citizens as individuals who fit that definition.   The Arc of Katy will celebrate them at the organization’s 2019 Gala on May 3 at the Omni Houston Hotel Westside.

Also to be honored at The Arc of Katy’s annual gala are Rhonda Johnstone and Dennis and Jeanne Ann Combrink. Johnstone has been selected by the organization’s Board of Directors to receive The Arc of Katy 2019 Ann Davis Founder’s Award and the Combrinks have been named as the organization’s Volunteers of the Year.

Wylie is being honored as the Hometown Hero for A Great Place to Live for community service, support of numerous non-profit organizations in the Katy area and the contributions by his three Chick-fil-A restaurants.  The organizations that Wylie and the Katy area Chick-fil-A stores support regularly include Compassion Katy, Clothed by Faith, Katy Christian Ministries, Grace Fellowship, Kingsland Baptist Church, The Fellowship of Cinco Ranch, Second Baptist Church, Katy Independent School District (Katy ISD) Education Foundation, Katy ISD schools, Faith West Academy, The Ballard House, Living Water, Young Life, Hope Impacts, Friends of Sundown and others.

As to why they support so many organizations, Wylie said, “We want to be an indispensable blessing to our community. Katy is our home. We want to be part of the Katy story of giving and serving others.”

Serving others is also an attribute for Coates. Through her 15 years of work with individuals with special needs, Coates is being honored as a Katy Area Hometown Hero for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD). Coates operates Camp Journey that offers several programs for individuals with IDD and other disabilities.

She reports that the inspiration for her work generated from a friendship in elementary school with a young boy with Autism.  “He would come over on his bike and play a little with our friends and that always touched my heart, and I felt the need to befriend him,” said Coates.  “I feel like it’s my calling in life, my life’s passion.”

Coates began her career in 2004 in the Special Education Department of Katy ISD. While still teaching in Katy ISD, Coates started Camp Journey in 2008 and later expanded it to include summer camp and after school programs. For her work, in 2013, Coates won “Teacher of the Year” honors from the LIVE with Kelly and Michael television show. In 2015 she began to work full time on Camp Journey.

Johnstone is being recognized with The Arc of Katy Ann Davis Founder’s Award for a lifetime of service to individuals with IDD.  “As a child, the words ‘be a friend to everyone’ surfaced in my mind and I feel like God has impressed upon me to do that,” she said.

Johnstone started her career as a recreational therapist in Beaumont, Texas, for high school students with emotional disabilities and also developed day activity camps for students with developmental disabilities. Her career took her to Enid, Okla., and then to the Briarwood School in Houston and finally to Katy ISD.

Johnstone helped launch The Arc of Katy Day Program and after retiring from Katy ISD, also served as executive director of The Arc of Katy. Today, she continues her work as an instructor with The Arc of Katy’s Be Strong Program which provides water therapy, water aerobics, weight training and various other exercises for participants of the day program who wish to enhance their health and well-being.

The Combrinks will be honored as The Arc of Katy Volunteers of the Year for their many years of service to the organization. They served on the social committee for several years prior to their daughter Joy’s death in 2006.

“Joy was born with Down Syndrome, so we wanted to be involved in her activities as much as possible,” said the Combrinks. “After we moved to Katy, we were thrilled to find The Arc of Katy. Joy was always very sociable and especially enjoyed attending the day camp and social events with her friends.”

Dennis and Jeanne Ann continued work with the social committee after their daughter’s death, serving as co-chairman of the committee since 2015.  Dennis also is a member of The Arc of Katy Board of Directors and the Program Committee.

All honorees will be recognized at The Arc of Katy’s 2019 Gala Celebrating Hometown Heroes on May 3 at the Omni Houston Westside. Registration to attend or sponsor the event can be found here.

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