The Junior Chamber of Commerce, also known as Jaycees, is an organization that provides young people the tools they need to build the bridges of success for themselves in the areas of business development, management skills, individual training and community service. The Jaycees have been a force of good throughout the country since the organization was founded. In 1987 the bylaws established membership ages as 21 through 39. Prior to that year, the ages were 21 through 35. This is very important to our story.
In the late 1960’s a group of very successful individuals were approaching 35 and nearing the end of their membership in the Jaycees. Wanting to continue their service to the community, the group of young visionaries started their own organization which they named ROHO.
Why the unusual name of ROHO? The title was taken from an Archie Campbell song about a rooster by the same name that was being turned out to pasture, so to speak. Since departing Jaycees were known as “exhausted roosters," the group felt they had something in common with the rooster. The name was a natural fit, it stuck, and the rest is history.
The gentlemen that started the ROHO organization were a driving force in the development of Middlesboro, Kentucky. The building and the operation of the Middlesboro Jaycees Civic Center is just one example of their hard work and ingenuity. They were the community leaders of their time.
The ROHO Cub has just one fundraising event a year which creates a tremendous amount of money to assist underprivileged children at Christmas. The one fundraiser is a misnomer because it is a year-long project lasting from January through December. This event is the annual ROHO Fishing Derby held each year at Beach Island Marina & Resort during the first weekend of May. The term derby is significant because this is also the weekend of the Kentucky Derby, but ROHO members will jokingly tell you that the folks up in Louisville will have to take care of themselves that weekend.
The marina is owned by Ned & Bubba Bass who also own Lakeview Marina. The managers are Chris Acuff and his wife Crystal. All of these fine folks are very active in helping to make the tournament a success. The fishing community is also active in the cause. Bait and tackle shops and even other marinas assist in ticket sales and some offer their services during this important weekend.
The bulk of the ROHO budget comes from tickets which are sold for $10.00 each throughout Upper East Tennessee, Southeastern Kentucky and Southwestern Virginia. The tickets provide entrance to the tournament and are also drawn for door prizes donated by area businesses and members of the community who believe in the ROHO mission. Some of these donors are emotionally involved because they too benefitted from one of the shopping sprees as a child when they were growing up in families with limited financial means.
The first derby produced enough income to provide a shopping spree for five children who were granted $50.00 each. Those five individuals were picked by the principals and teachers at various area schools and made their purchases from such businesses as John’s Store and Woolworth’s in downtown Middlesboro. Three-fourths of the money was spent on clothing and one-fourth could be spent on toys. Five decades have come and gone since that first tournament and the shopping spree and the number of participating youngsters have increased as the event continues to grow and expand to more than 300 children.
This year, approximately 350 children will be given $200.00 each to spend. Each child will be allotted $140.00 for clothing and $60.00 may be spent on toys. Recipients of this shopping spree will be children from approximately 29 schools in the tri-state area which includes the counties of Bell, Lee, Claiborne and Union Counties. Those institutions are Bell Central, Clairfield, Middlesboro Elementary, Ellen Myers, Elydale, Forge Ridge, Lone Jack, Maynardville, Midway, Pineville, Frakes, Fonde, Sharp’s Chapel, Springdale, TNT, Rose Hill, Red Bird, Page, Right Fork, SMMS, Paulette Elementary, Powell Valley Elementary, Big Ridge, Luttrell, Elk Knob, Middlesboro Middles School, Middlesboro Pre-School, and Yellow Creek Elementary School.
Lawrence Tuck, a ROHO spokesperson says, “Walmart is an outstanding supporter of this program. They go above and beyond the checkout lane to make this a very memorable day for all involved. The children are treated to lunch at the rear of the store and they also get to meet Santa Clause who will give them a fresh bag of fruit. The entire excursion will take about two hours with school times staggered throughout the morning to make things run more smoothly.”
The first thing most people outside the organization notice when talking with members of ROHO is the passion they exude about their mission. Many members will tell about their emotions involved when a child asks during the shopping spree if they may spend part of their money on a gift for a brother, sister, mom or dad. This heartbreaking request urges many ROHO members to work harder each year in an effort to help as many of the area’s children as possible.
Those interested in becoming a member of ROHO are invited to attend a regularly scheduled meeting which takes place the first Monday of each month at 7:00 p.m. at the Middlesboro Country Club.