It’s been over a month since Bonnie M. Sprague received the Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award at the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce’s 63rd Annual Awards Banquet; however, she is still in disbelief over it.
“I was so honored,” she says. “I still can’t believe it. I keep thinking, ‘I’m just like anyone else who donates their time and cares. There are a lot of people who do that.’”
One person in particular has inspired Sprague throughout her life to care for others – her mother.
“She always took care of others,” Sprague says. “She was a fantastic Brownie leader and supported my dad’s softball team. We lived next to the DHS unit and we would wrap boxes for the families that needed items over the holidays.”
Through her adult life, Sprague has continued caring for her neighbors as her mother taught her – both personally and professionally.
Sprague has been general manager of the Soaring Eagle Waterpark and Hotel since it opened in 2012; and, she oversees the Soaring Eagle Hideaway RV Park, as well as the Retreat at Soaring Eagle and Waabooz Run Golf Course. She also opened the casino in December of 1996, accompanied by her management team.
As general manager at Soaring Eagle Waterpark and Hotel, she has overseen many charity events, including the Splash Away Hunger food drive to benefit the Isabella Community Soup Kitchen, which invited the community to bring in a donation of two food items in exchange for a waterpark pass. She was also involved in the Giving and Swimming event, which encouraged people to bring in a toy donation to benefit Toys for Tots in exchange for a waterpark pass.
“Those guests that come here, their smiles, to see them toss that toy in the box to get into the water park is great,” Sprague says.
The flag flown over the United States Capitol in honor of Sprague
Sprague has also had 30 foster children go through her home, and has adopted three of them.
“Those are bittersweet moments. You get to take them in when they really need someone and bond with them,” she says. “Some of those kids are parents today and we still have a relationship with them and they come visit us.”
This dedication to provide a home to children most in need of one was also inspired by Sprague’s mother.
“My mother did that as well – take in kids, just take in kids who needed a place to go,” Sprague says.
The day of the banquet, Sprague spent the majority of the day with her daughter, who wasn’t feeling well, at the hospital. Concerned about leaving her daughter and unaware that she had even been nominated for the Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award, she nearly didn’t attend the banquet. However, her family was in on the surprise and insisted she attend.
A special tribute for Sprague“My daughter was sick and she laid on my bed and I looked at her and said, ‘Let’s not go. Let’s just stay home.’ And she said, ‘No, mom.’”
After telling her husband she didn’t want to leave her daughter, Sprague’s husband responded that they would just go, eat dinner, and come right home.
Sprague says, “We got to the Comfort Inn and I said, ‘Let’s just go home. I don’t feel like I’m ready for the event.’ He said, ‘Oh, we’re here. Let’s just go in.’”
As the banquet continued, Sprague began to relax a bit, even winning the chocolate diamond during the Mining for Diamonds event.
“When the couple that won last year got up to announce the winner, they kept saying, ‘he or she’ and they were saying traits and things he or she was involved in and I kept thinking, “Hmm, I do that too,’” Sprague says. “I didn’t know I’d been nominated, so I thought, ‘it could be someone else.’”
Then, something was mentioned that is near and dear to Sprague’s heart.
“They mentioned my mother’s cookies,” she says, getting teary. “I took on the gift of baking cookies. I bake like 1,000 per year – for baby showers, events. I never charge, I just do it. It’s my mom’s recipe and I love to do it. I knew at that moment it was me.”
Her husband took her hand to take her on stage, where her family, who had been hidden in a back room, came out to greet her.
“It’s not like I feel like I did something big or grand,” Sprague says. “I just did something I was taught to do.”